Starting Point
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Issue Date:  December 16, 2005

Starting Point


Whoever waxes poetic on the virtues of living in the here and now has never dealt with the meltdown of a 2-year-old in the middle of a department store. We’re talking anguished shrieks of rage, streaming tears, writhing away from any comforting touch, adamant refusal of any words of reason.

“But honey, we have to pay for the ball and then Nana will give it right back.” There is no future, just inconsolable grief for a purple ball as she caresses it and talks to it, no doubt whispering secrets about her despicable Nana who takes purple balls away from little girls.

So how much have we grown up, really? We want what we have, what other people have and just a smidge more.

My husband taught me a trick -- although let me confess, I was a slow learner and I forget the lesson sometimes. It’s the trick to living a simple life. He treats everything he receives as a replacement for something he has. He will never need more closet space, more hooks or drawers or shelves, a bigger house or garage. You give him a shirt and Goodwill gets a shirt. That’s his way.

(That sounds easy, you say? You, reader of NCR without a lot of shirts? OK, then, try it with books or CDs.)

We’re not just starting out. We’re in our 50s and we notice the diminishing energy -- and interest -- to care for stuff. It only makes sense to maintain a kind of stasis of acquisition and divestment. Fifty isn’t 20 or two.

She forgave Nana for the temporary separation from the purple ball, but she whispered to it all the way home.

Paige Byrne Shortal writes from her home in rural Missouri.

National Catholic Reporter, December 16, 2005

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