Last Saturday I drove to Farragut State Park near Sandpoint, Idaho. I wanted to donate a pocketknife that my dad used during his service in the South Pacific in World War II to the Museum at the park. The state park is on the site of Farragut Naval Training Station where my dad (and almost 300,000 other Navy recruits) did his basic training.
I have had this knife since I was 8 years old. I know its weight, its feel in my hand, its shape, color and smell. When the time came to hand it over I almost couldn’t do it. It seemed like giving away a finger or an ear. I wonder: why do we give so much value to objects? They are, after all, just things.
The knife reminds me of days spent playing with my little brother in the basement of our house in Portland, Oregon. The basement was unfinished and big enough for him to ride his trike in. Dad had hung his sea bag, filled with newspaper, in the basement. One of our favorite things to do was swing on the bag.
Holding the knife floods my heart with memories of that childhood time when my biggest problem was my brother decapitating my doll by running over her with his trike. It is a relic of a time of childhood innocence and sibling bonding. But, after all, it’s just a knife, just a thing.
Jesus had no things. He was homeless, walking for miles to teach people about the kingdom of God, interacting with everyone who came to him by touching them, healing them, challenging them, feeding them. Jesus teaches me that the things I think are so important are not important. It is the people, the interactions, the love and hope that we give to one another that mean everything.
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Still, that knife is the symbol of a part of my life. As we walked away from the visitor’s center leaving the knife sealed in a manila envelope, my husband asked, “Are you sad?” I said, “No. I feel relieved.” The knife is in a place where it will be cherished, where others will be able to enjoy it; a place where it fits in the context of a part of my dad’s life. In a drawer or even on my desk, the knife is just for me. Given away it is history shared and preserved for all. That’s what I’m telling myself.
Yes, I feel a little sad. I’ll get over it. Most important is coming face-to-face with my attitude toward my things.
May God grant me the understanding and peace for my heart to let go of things and cherish the people who are so important in my life and the memories we share.
The Rev. Christine Prescott can be reached at email@example.com.