Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Chocolate and Clementines
Last night I heard about a study relating to children and excessive giving. It concluded that we are guilty of heaping far too many new things upon our children and, as a result, instead of appreciating and enjoying what they've just been handed, the little guys are busy anticipating the next new thing. A cell phone? That's cool. But I really want an iPod. An iPod? That's cool. But what I really wanted was a 4-player Wii Video Game System....
I laughed and thought about how true that rings. Growing up, my brothers and sisters and I got new things at birthdays and Christmas. That's about it. My birthday falls in April, so I had plenty of time to wear out my dolls and games by the time Santa came to town. And I valued those presents! I still have many of the dolls and books and games I got as a child. They meant so much to me. Presents seemed to mean more then. Or is it just me?
If losing your job (and finding yourself either over or under qualified for lots of new employment opportunities) has crashed down anything upon my psyche, it's this: the value of things. I've found, in the past few weeks, just how many excessive things I've been financing. How many things were automatically deducted out of my account that I barely noticed and hardly needed. I've realized how many books and hobby stuff I purchased regularly. How much I spent on gifts and meals. How much money I threw at fancy dog food and treats and toys and puppy daycare (when I was in the city). Seriously. And now that the tap's turned off, I feel... hollow, somehow, but in a calm way. There's been an emptying of things, and the clamoring and rattling inside me is... silent. Could it be gone then, too?
Saturday I got sick again, as I often do when I find myself stressed and the house gets bitterly cold. I had fever and stomach issues and a cold sore. My Mom came to check on me and help out... twice, which she rarely does, and it meant so much. Then on Sunday night Grace unexpectedly showed up with bags of soup and vegetables and coffee and yogurt. And a crate of clementines. The fruit was so beautiful, I thought, piled up and nearly bursting juice out of their fleshy peels.
I let Grace's clementines be until yesterday, when I sliced through the netting and dropped one inside the pocket of my relatively expensive robe (that I'd never worn until this week). Digging into the freezer, I also pulled out the last chocolate square I'd sneaked back from Turkey... damak...(a silky smooth European chocolate with pistachios)... and slid it into my pocket, too. Then I went and sat in front of the library fireplace and watched the Christmas tree lights twinkle and slowly peeled my clementine and ate it with my chocolate square.
It was the best dessert I've ever had in my life. The best. It was truly savored. I felt like Jo in Little Women, when she walks around with her Christmas orange for days, rolling it in her hands and smelling it. An orange. Can you imagine giving a child an orange in her stocking this Christmas? It would get a bigger eye-roll than underwear. An orange. What's an orange to us nowadays? What's a clementine? Nothing. Maybe we've had too many. Maybe our sense of value is too stretched-out to do us any good. Maybe it's because we think about our next meal while we're eating this one. We forget how wonderful it all is. How immensely blessed we all are.
At least I did. It took a thoughtfully-given clementine and a hoarded chocolate bar, which I can't go out and buy here, to remind me. Don't miss the gifts you have right now, they whispered. Don't forget to count up the small blessings as you add up your life.
Jesus talked more about money than He did heaven and hell combined. Crazy, when you consider it. He also talked about how hard it is for rich people to come to God. It would be easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle, He said, than for a rich man to go to heaven. Why? Because people comfortable in their lives feel no need to make provisions for the next. Why would you need God when you have it all, anyway?
Yes, life gets simpler over here by the day. And you know what? It's just fine with me. It's good for us, I think, to be brought to a place of dependence on God. It's not fun. It's certainly not cool. But it's an incredible place to be. (When did we start measuring success with a stuff yardstick, anyway? Why can't the "successful" folks be the ones whose kids value what they're given? Why can't a worldly honor of success be bestowed on folks who live day to day, too? Why can't success be a title for a father who makes time for his kids? An aunt who makes chocolate chip cookies? A nurse who sits up with ill? A teacher who never backs down? A mother who says bedtime prayers? A preacher who perseveres? Why can't the "successful" folks be girls in handknitted scarves who sit in old houses, gratefully eating chocolate squares and clementines?)
I'm still thinking on it all. But in the meantime, I'll think I'll go have another clementine and a mug of tea for lunch....
Sure wish that chocolate hadn't disappeared already.... [wink]