VIEW VIDEO If you were here last week, you’ll know I came out of the closet. For most all my life, I’ve been trying to convince people I’m young and hip, but last week, after scrutinizing my birth certificate and hairline, I owned up to being a geezer. Several of you approached me afterwards and said, “You’re not a geezer,” which was kind of you, but when I said, “No, I’m a geezer,” you said, “Well, now that you mention it, perhaps you are.”
I would have preferred a more strenuous, more spirited defense, but one can’t have everything.
Today, I’m continuing my geezer manifesto, the stuff I want to do before I croak, the first thing being my determination to acquire less and give more. Several weeks ago, I met with the adult children of a couple who had died right before Covid. (B.C. used to mean Before Christ, now it means Before Covid.) The adult children are well into their 70s and have spent the past three years sorting through and disbursing their parent’s junk. When the couple was alive, I told them they needed to get rid of their stuff before they died or their children would hate them, but they assured me it was good stuff, worth lots of money, treasures their children would be delighted to have. I don’t know where they got that idea, because everyone I’ve ever known over the age of 40 barely has enough room for their own junk, let alone someone else’s.
So they didn’t get rid of their junk, then they died, and now their grown children, who have medical challenges of their own, are stuck with the Herculean task of not only getting rid of their mom and dad’s stuff, but paring down their own stuff as their lives wind down. My hero of the week is Jim McClung’s father, who when he died, owned one bed, a microwave, a mirror, and a chest of drawers. It was his final gift to his children. What a kind, considerate man!
Joan and I were in our garage not long ago, and she noticed a skeleton key hanging on the wall of my workshop.
She said, “What’s that key for?”
I said, “That was the key to my grandparent’s house that was built in 1832. Grandpa carried it in his pocket from 1929 to 1985. I can’t get rid of that.”
It’s the biggest key I’ve ever seen. It’s like the vault key to a medieval castle in Europe, like something out of Beauty and the Beast. And I can’t get rid of it because my grandfather carried it with him every day for 56 years, so here I am, stuck with my grandfather’s house key from 1832. Do not do this to your children and grandchildren.
Stop acquiring, and start giving away, preferably to those in need or those just starting out. The Swedes call this death cleaning, and at the age of 60 begin passing on their possessions to the younger generations.
There is an important spiritual and interpersonal principle at work here. The more time we devote to our material possessions, to their acquisition, storage, and upkeep, the less time we will have to spend with our children, grandchildren, and friends; the less energy we will have to be helpful; the less money we’ll have to help those in genuine need. We will invest our energy and attention on things that offer nothing in return. Our possessions require ever larger homes, which require ever larger incomes, which require ever larger investments in time. We will keep doing this, until it occurs to us that we have spent our lives encumbered by things. Encumbered.
Let’s think of that word for a moment—encumbered. To restrict or burden someone or something in such a way that free action or movement is difficult. How often have we felt that way? How often have we felt restricted or burdened to such a degree that action or movement is difficult, if not impossible? Shouldn’t the pattern of our lives, as we age, tend in the opposite direction? Shouldn’t we be freeing ourselves, becoming more flexible, less saddled with material obligations, to better focus on our interior well-being and the needs of others.
Acquire less, give more.
I have a friend, a fellow geezer, who enjoys motorcycling, but realizes the number of younger motorcyclists is declining, partly because they don’t have the disposable income to purchase a motorcycle. My friend owns seven motorcycles, but realized he could only ride one motorcycle at a time, so decided to give away five of his seven motorcycles.
He began his motorcycle lottery this past week, carefully identifying younger people who might enjoy owning a motorcycle. He phoned them, told them he had a present for them, and when they came to his home, he presented them with a motorcycle. I saw him this past week and asked how things were going, asked him if he’d had a good week.
“I’ve had the best week I’ve had in a long time,” he said. “It’s been an absolute joy.”
Advice from a geezer: Acquire less, give more.
What possessions and resources do you have that burden you, but might be liberating or helpful to someone else? I know our objections. We tell ourselves we paid good money for our things, that they have value, that we shouldn’t just be expected to give them away if we no longer need them. But that is precisely the time to give our things away, when they still have value, before they are broken down and worthless, when they can still be useful to someone else. Giving something away for free that we paid good money for doesn’t mean we’re poor stewards or bad at business or suckers. It means we have realized our need for something has come to an end, that it is time to put that item to good use in hopes of improving someone else’s life. In light of that, acquiring less and giving more might be the most Christian thing we ever do. It is a double gift, as we free ourselves, we help others.
Friends, no one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of others.