I was 10 years old. I ran into my father's office with a pair of spankin' new shiny brown shoes, purchased during our weekly trip to town. My father looked at me — not my shoes — and said, "Janey, darlin', do you really need them?"
That hurt. I wanted him to share my joy in the beauty of those new shoes. "But," I explained, "my feet have grown, my toes are 'butt up against' the front of my shoes, and Mother said it was time to get a new pair."
He then looked at the shoes, affirmed the purchase, took them in his big hands and felt the soft leather. Whew! A difficult lesson for me. It might have been difficult for him to ask the question.
Our Church of the Brethren heritage is to strive to live a simple life with few belongings. From our beginnings we were steeped in serving others. We took seriously the mandate to "live simply so that others may simply live."
Growing up, I often heard my father speak his values. He said, "If a person has more than three pairs of shoes in their closet, someone is doing without." These days we have running shoes, golf shoes, cross-training shoes, winter shoes, sandals, comfort sandals, dress sandals, ergonomically proportioned support shoes for high arches. Whoa! What's happened? What's gone wrong? What do I want? What do I need?
Our culture has us choking on too many things with too little time to enjoy our life, our families, children and grandchildren. From infancy we learn that gaining and gathering are marks of success. We are often convinced that our well-being is tied to attaining things, yet our well-being is compromised because we have become slaves to things. We need to ask the difficult question: "What do we really need?"
Often we discover we don't miss what we can let go. If we ask the hard questions we might find joy in a focused lifestyle. It's a good time to examine our instinct for consuming. It's time to give our closets and shelves a critical look. It's time to lead the conversations around our tables asking, "Darlin', do we really need this?"
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers