Thursday, December 09, 2004

For Keeps

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
~ Philippians 4:11-13

The inspiration for this week’s column came from the following story which was sent to me by my step-mother, Barbara Brady. It’s called “Keepers,”

Author Unknown

I grew up in the Fifties with a practical parent -- my mother, God love her, who ironed Christmas wrapping paper and washed aluminum foil so she could reuse it. My mother even ironed Christmas ribbons - they were made of rayon back then. She was the original recycle queen, before they had a name for it. It was the time for fixing things – the screen door, a curtain rod, the kitchen radio, the hem in a dress. Things we keep. It was a way of life and sometimes it made me crazy…all that re-fixing, re-eating, renewing. I wanted just once to be wasteful. Waste meant affluence. Throwing things away meant you knew there'd always be more.

But one day Mother died and as I sat in my kitchen that Sunday afternoon reading her old handmade cookbook in a binder, I was struck with the pain of feeling all alone, learning that sometimes there isn't any “more.” Sometimes, what we care about most gets all used up and goes away...never to return. So...while we have it, it's best we love it....and care for it.....and fix it when it's broken. And heal it when it's sick.

This is true for old cars.... and children with bad report cards..... and dogs with bad hips..... and best friends who moved away or classmates we grew up with… and aging parents...and grandparents.
We keep them because they are worth it…because we are worth it.


When I was growing up in a family of nine children, we always had everything we needed. We had plenty of food and clothing, a nice place to live, ample sources of recreation and most of all, lots of love.

But I’ll be honest with you, one of the main reasons we had everything we needed was because our mother was so frugal. With that many kids to care for, she had to cut corners and save money wherever she could.

For example, Mom used to save those green stamps from the grocery store and painstakingly paste them into little booklets. I don’t recall what she received when the booklets were full, but it was something of value. Another way she saved money was by buying powdered milk. I can’t speak for all of my siblings, but I know I hated that stuff. There was always a layer of unmixed milk floating on the top. I remember one time I invited a friend over from school and I asked Mom if she would please buy a quart of “real milk” because I was so embarrassed. (Now I’m embarrassed to admit that I was embarrassed!)

Another way Mom saved money was in the area of sweets. Other than ice cream for dessert, she didn’t buy much junk food. When we took our sack lunches to school we usually had a sandwich, chips and a piece of fruit. It seemed sooo boring compared to the other kids’ lunches. I used to drool over the Hostess Twinkie snacks my friends had in their lunches every day. (Maybe that’s why I have such a sweet tooth!)

Lastly, Mom got all kinds of mileage out of the hand-me-downs in our family. With six girls and three boys, there always seemed to be plenty of clothes to hand down! Since we wore uniforms through the eighth grade at the Catholic school, I didn’t get to wear “regular clothes” until I attended ninth grade at Hudson Junior High. Being the youngest of the six girls, I had so many hand-me-downs that I didn’t repeat the same outfit for the first six weeks of school! Let me tell you, I was in seventh heaven!

It’s a good thing I enjoyed it while I had the chance, because the following year we moved to Singapore where it was back to school uniforms once again. In fact, I remember getting into trouble for being out of uniform because I wore bright yellow socks with matching yellow hair ribbons. I would do anything to spruce up my school uniform.

But the art of learning to be content whatever state you’re in is a valuable one. Keen and I have been dirt poor and we have had plenty, but always... always… we have had everything we need.

"I have led you forty years in the wilderness; your clothes have not worn out upon you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet.... that you might recognize and know [your dependence on Him who is saying], I am the Lord your God."
~ Deuteronomy 29:5, 6b

It’s in the lean times when you learn to focus on what is really important in life – God, good health and the love of your family. When it’s all said and done, nothing else really matters.

Around the Corner
By Henson Towne

Around the corner, I have a friend
In this great city that has no end,
Yet the days go by and weeks rush on,
And before I know it, a year is gone.

And I never see my old friend's face,
For life is a swift and terrible race,
He knows I like him just as well,
As in the days when I rang his bell,
And he rang mine.

Ah, but we were younger then,
And now we are busy, tired men.
Tired of playing a foolish game,
Tired of trying to make a name.
“Tomorrow,” I say, “I will call on Jim.”

“Just to show that I'm thinking of him.”
But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes,
And distance between us grows and grows.
Around the corner! Yet, miles away.
“Here's a telegram, sir.”
“Jim died today.”

And that's what we get and deserve in the end.
Around the corner, a vanished friend.

“May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you...May you be content knowing you are a child of God.... Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of you.”
~ St. Theresa, known as the Saint of Little Ways, who believed in doing little things in life well and with great love.