I Believe in The Power of Stuff

I believe in the power of stuff. I am an old newlywed. I teach, I knit, and I love, love, love to dance in the kitchen with my husband. I am pretty settled in my domestic ways. I love my antique dishes and linens and the fact that my kids are old enough now that I have banned plastic from my kitchen almost completely. My silverware matches, my glasses coordinate. I am a closet domestician who loves to bake.

My new husband, on the other hand, has an eclectic cache of plastic everything and not so, well, you know, domestically coordinated kitchenware. When we married we found we owned two of many things, kitchen appliances, televisions, ironing boards, and an extra bed. I have designated this the Summer of Purge and am determined to let go, mostly of his stuff.

I have felt burdened by all of our stuff in the basement and am ready to clean house physically and emotionally to give a good foundation for this new life. During a National Writing Project institute this summer, a friend shared that her new in-laws lost their home to a fire. While a collection envelope was created, I thought how fortunate for me. I have all this stuff and they have no stuff. Serendipity.

I began to pack up stuff: pots, pans, dishes, electronics, a Christmas tree strand, a string of lights, and more. With every packed box, I felt lighter, better, liberated from stuff. Our new friends showed up with a trailer yesterday. We piled stuff on. Something that surprised me was their genuine smiles, easy conversation, and warm hugs. I couldn’t help but wonder how I would feel if I were them. Would I be so gracious? So kind? So quick to smile?

This act was not random. It was planned. We knew the house had burned. We began to collect items to give and plan to give more of whatever stuff pops out of the boxes in the basement. I think a random act of kindness comes at a moment of surprise, not so much to the recipient, but to the giver. This happened to me yesterday while wrapping drinking glasses in tissue to tuck in a box. I decided to bake cookies and place them, as a surprise, in a large donated pot.

With every cookie my daughter and I formed in our hands and rolled in the sweet sugar and cinnamon, I thought about how wonderful life is to provide these opportunities to give and to love, even those we don’t know. I felt giddy with kindness, but more than that, I felt significant in this world while standing barefoot in my kitchen, warm from summer, warm from the oven, baking Snickerdoodles, wearing a polka-a-dot apron, and learning about the stuff we are made of.

Audio version


3 Responses

  1. I really loved reading this post. I found myself smiling, nodding, and even laughing at some points. Not only do I love cookies and surprises, but I also love to give. I can’t relate to the bunches of stuff, because I hate having a lot of stuff. It makes me feel trapped. I can relate to the feeling I get when I give. The way someone’s smile makes me feel. How something I do that seems so small to me turns out to change the course of someone else’s life in a big way.

  2. I think this is a wonderful thing. I would love to see more of these actions take place in the world today. Even though you have thoughts about if smiles should be on thier faces, I would say so. I could understand if not, after the loss it could have been very sad. I think if you look at the other side and see that even when something bad happens there will be some type of light at the end of the tunnel. Which is the main reason. In the world today it is hard to find a person willing to give as much as you had. Most are willing to sale items or even loan but, for you to give it truely a generous offer. I commend you on this. I hope more are willing to see the comfort that you give the couple and the boost wieght of ones shoulders.

  3. Mrs. A,

    First off Congrats on becomming a newlywed!! By the end of this month, I will be able to call myself a newlywed. I am very excited. Even though we me and my fiance have been living together for two years, there is still something new we learn about eachother on a daily basis, some good and some bad.

    I just cant believe in less then 2 weeks away my name will not be Jessica Lawrence anymore. It is going to be so hard to get into the habbit of Jessica Wall. For 19 years and 6 months I have signed my name the esact same everyday. This is going to be a big adjustment for me. I tell myself that when I become a teacher Mrs. Wall is going to be a lot easier for pre school- 1st grade students to learn and prenounce 🙂

    I am very sorry to hear about your friend’s inlaws. Such a terrible thing to happen. You got two tasks accomplised in one. You not only got to do that huge cleanup you wanted, but you got to open your heart to someone else and spread love and kindness. If more of us out there could remeber to do this, the world could be so much more diffrent.

    When I came to the part about you and your daughter making the cookies for a suprise , it made me smile. That is too sweet. You and your family sound like you are very good people.

    I myself love volunteering, and helping others as much as I can. I just can’t explain the feeling I get. Rather it is opening a door for a old man at the gas station, helping a child reach get something at the grocery store they cant reach, or standing in line at Walmart behind a handicap person that didnt realize they droped a 5 dollar bill and reaching down and getting it and giving it right back to them ( majority of people today would have just pocketed it without a thought) brings joy to my heart.

    To be able to share the joy and give love to others is one of the greatest gifts we have and can do so much for the heart.

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