Maybe ‘things’ don’t matter much after all

Last Saturday, we had a fun evening planned–dinner at seven, followed by Mexican Train dominoes.
Mexican Train is almost a tradition when our son is here to visit, as he was last weekend.
But all of our plans changed suddenly!
In the first place, our son arrived at five instead of seven. He immediately turned on the television and everyone forgot about dominoes.
Instead, we watched the unfolding of a tragic Kansas weather drama–97 tornadoes in one day– and almost $300 million of destruction.
Power lines downed, large trees uprooted, roads flooded, vehicles flipped over, houses damaged and destroyed, farm yards trashed, crops pummelled by two-inch hail, people injured, and emergency vehicles everywhere.
We watched helplessly as tornadoes barrelled with ruthless force toward towns we cared about–towns we often visit. Salina, Pretty Prairie, Goessel, Wichita, Hutchinson, Hillsboro.
And, especially, Moundridge, where my brother, Jim, and his family live. We listened as a storm-chaser described a stovepipe tornado that appeared to be heading towards Jim’s property.
Others were watching, too. Later, my Aunt Frances called from Ohio and reported that she had been talking on the phone with my cousin, Martha, from New York state at that moment.
Suddenly, Martha exclaimed, “There’s a tornado going into Moundridge RIGHT NOW.”
Fortunately, the tornado lifted and spared the town of Moundridge. But not everyone was that fortunate.
We watched nervously as storm after storm came and went, travelling at unusually fast speeds of 50-60 m.p.h.
Our family takes tornadoes seriously, so we had prepared ahead—stocking the tornado shelter with bottled water, medicines, a battery-operated radio, cellphone, purses, coats, and shoes.
And in order to protect our computer data, we took down our portable hard drives.
Unfortunately, the shelter also is our storage room. So it is home to many things–suitcases, boxes of old pictures, Christmas decorations, Tonka toys, my childhood Dorothy doll with real hair, my children’s special grade school papers, a four-drawer file cabinet full of the input for my 1980 master’s thesis, and my mother’s beautiful crocheted handwork and Raggedy Anns.
The list goes on. Except for the Christmas decorations, most of it is never looked at!
After seeing television pictures of Kansas families looking through the rubble of the sites where their homes once stood, I reflected. Are all of those things “treasures” or “clutter?”
And what about the other rooms of our house–the closets, cupboards, drawers, and shelves.
Could they all become rubble with one sweep of wind? And would it matter?
It led me to think about this quote from Wendell Berry’s 1971 book titled, “Farming: a handbook.”
“Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.”
Maybe things don’t matter after all. Then why do we waste our time organizing and taking care of all of our “things?” Things that are so easily destroyed by a fire or a tornado.
Why not let go? Instead of sorting, why not toss? Let the rubble go before a tragedy hits.
And just what is rubble?
Perhaps the tornado outbreak of April 14, 2012 should lead us to meditate on this anonymous quote, “Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.”
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