by: Mary Oliver
When I moved from one house to another
there were many things I had no room
for. What does one do? I rented a storage
space. And filled it. Years passed.
Occasionally I went there and looked in,
but nothing happened, not a single
twinge of the heart.
As I grew older the things I cared
about grew fewer, but were more
important. So one day I undid the lock
and called the trash man. He took
I felt like the little donkey when
his burden is finally lifted. Things!
Burn them, burn them! Make a beautiful
fire! More room in your heart for love,
for the trees! For the birds who own
nothing--the reason they can fly.
I think everyone is tied down by the "things" in their lives--whether they're material or spiritual or psychological. Things, as Oliver says, weigh us down. Like the little donkey, we might not ever realize we're carrying these things around until they're lifted off our shoulders.
The country I call home is pretty materialistic. Success is measured by things like the car you drive, job you work, home you live in, money you have in the bank. Again, all things. I'm just as guilty as anybody else. Envy is a very human failing. Everyone experiences it. If you know a person who claims to be completely content with life, that person is probably lying.
I work at a public library in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and, especially this time of year, many of our daily patrons are homeless people. Often, they arrive when our doors open at 9:30 a.m., and they don't leave until closing time (8:30 p.m.). I don't know most of their life stories, but I'm sure they weren't always homeless. They had houses/apartments, families, friends. Things we all take for granted each and every day.
Sure, some homeless people struggle with addictions and mental illness. That may be why they've lost all the things in their lives. I've heard many people I know (people who are usually kind, generous, loving) say that we have a "homeless problem." Before a church service once, I even heard a fine, upstanding elder say over coffee and cookies, "We should put them all on a bus and send them back where they came from."
Most people reading this blog post have things. A lot of things. Things that we think make us happy. Laptops and smart phones. Leftover pizza in the fridge. Netflix and Amazon Prime. We've just celebrated a holiday that, for better or worse these days, focuses on the giving and getting of things. (Again, I'm just as guilty as the next person in this.)
In the poem above, Mary Oliver is echoing something Christ says in the Bible: "Look at the birds of the air: they do not sow or reap, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?"
I have an abundantly blessed life. Filled with more things than any person really needs. My family is healthy. My house is warm. My car started this morning. My TV is playing The Family Stone, one of my favorite Christmas movies. And I give thanks for these blessings. All of them. I'm a lucky guy.
Homeless people are not a "problem." Homelessness is the problem. Homelessness is the result of a society that values property over humanity. That thinks blessings are rights rather than gifts from a loving universe. If you believe there isn't enough pie for every person in this world to have a piece of it, then you are saying that you don't trust God. And you will never be able to fly.
Saint Marty hopes you all find your wings.
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