We've met the late Jamie Buckingham in these pages before. His wit, wisdom and faith have helped me on my own journey through life, and many others as well.
I was reminded of one of his articles when I began cleaning up and sorting out our garage, which is filled to the brim with potentially useful things (or, as my wife scornfully refers to them, "stuff!", in a tone of voice that reduces them - and me - to quivering apprehension). After so many years in what I can best describe as "deprived environments" (a term which encompasses almost the whole of Africa, for a start!), I've long since
- If a plague of East African locusts descends on North Texas, I daresay I can cook up a mess of them to replace the crops they've eaten. (They're entirely edible if prepared correctly. You ask me how I know this? Trust me. I know this - but I'd rather not do it again!) I've made sure I have spare camping stoves and cookware to prepare them appropriately. Yes, that's "stoves" and "cookware" in the plural. Why? I have no idea.
- If we suffer an emergency and I have to equip neighbors with knives (belt, folding and bush), I've discovered I can outfit well over two score of them. Where the heck did all those blades come from?
- If I have to tie down a load in the back of a pickup truck, I have something like fifty or sixty straps and bungee cords with which to do so. I no longer have a pickup truck, but by golly, I've still got the tie-downs!
I've girded my loins (ouch!), assembled some moving boxes, and I'm packing up the "reserve supplies" for disposal, one box at a time. It won't go quickly, but I have a goal; by the end of the year, I want to be able to park a car in our garage. Right now, I might just fit its spare tire inside if I worked hard to make a space! I know what Phil over at Bustedknuckles feels like (scroll down to see the pictures of his garage). Mine's not (quite) that bad, but still . . .
To encourage myself, I turned to Jamie Buckingham's collected columns in "The Last Word" once again.
A wise man once suggested we should take inventory every two months and discard everything not used during that period of time. It’s a valid spiritual principle. When God moves and beckons us to follow, we need to travel light. Not burdened by things of this world.
But what do you do when you have a whole room full of things that might come in handy one day?
About every two years, we are forced to clean out the back room of our house, which is tantamount to going through the Smithsonian Institution and deciding what to keep and what to throw away. Our back room, which we affectionately call the “junk room,” is part utility, part workshop, and part storage hole. It usually takes about two years for the junk to begin to take over the living area of our house. It spreads, like chinch bugs in the grass, encroaching first into the den, then into the kitchen, and finally onto the dining room table. If we don’t do something we would eventually have to move out of the house. So, every so often, I declare “operation throwaway.”
But what do you do with odds and ends that you never have used but just might need one of these days? For instance, we have a mayonnaise jar filled with assorted keys. To my knowledge, they don’t fit any lock in the house, but you never can tell . . .
Then there are the electric train sets. True, all the tracks are different gauges and the transformers are burned out. But one of these days electric trains will be antiques and perhaps my children would like to show them to their children (no doubt so they could put them in their junk room).
From surplus sales I’ve acquired aluminum cooking sets, cartons of Canned Heat, water purifiers, and salt pills. All so far unused. And I think GI pants, the ones with the big pockets on the sides, are the greatest. I once bought six pair during a closeout sale. All are too small now, but I keep telling myself that one day there’ll be no more war and they won’t make swell pants like this anymore. In the meantime, I had better hold onto them.
I never wear a hat, but you never can tell when . . . maybe someday I might play that old concertina again . . . and everybody saves National Geographics, don’t they? I’ll bet my son, Bruce, can hardly wait to get his hands on a beer mug inscribed “Mercer University, 1954, ATO.” And a man never knows when he might need a broken phonograph and a big, long cardboard box filled with bent curtain rods.
It’s like the old clothes in my closet. I just can’t bear to throw them away. I know the style has changed since the fifties, but one of these days I might lose a lot of weight and be able to slip back into them again. I can always use them on camping trips—in case we ever go camping.
I remembered reading about a man who never threw anything away. He stored it all in his attic and one day, you guessed it, his house collapsed on top of him.
My wife reminded me that last summer we took a long vacation and lived happily out of a suitcase for almost six weeks. If I could get along without that old commando machete and those five pair of holey tennis shoes then, I could surely get along without them now. I bit my lip, closed my eyes, and threw away everything I hadn’t used in two months—including the 1954 beer mug and an old ammunition belt.
That evening, sitting quietly in the den, I heard a terrible commotion in the junk room. Opening the door, I saw my two teenage children carting stuff from the garbage bin back into the house.
“Gosh, Dad,” Bruce said with a look of dismay on his face, “one day these old electric trains will be antiques . . .”
I closed the door and returned to the TV. Like father like son. I have bred another generation of pack rats, and I suspect they will have just as much trouble squeezing through the eye of a needle with all that junk as Jesus’ proverbial camel.
*Sigh* . . . guilty as charged!