Do I own it or does it own me?



Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Dear Friends:

On February 16, 2016, my home burned to the ground along with everything I have ever    possessed.  Every letter, elementary school report card, piece of clothing, photograph, cub scout uniform, tennis trophy, piece of art, memorabilia….everything.  Those things were “archives” of my entire life up to that point.  Also lost, of course, were all the things that made me “comfortable”. The furniture, the familiar coffee cups, my favorite books, etc.   In two hours I lost it all.  In a real way, I have no physical possession that I can pass on to the next generation, it’s all dust now.  I was not aware of it then, but I actually experienced traumatic stress from that ordeal and was in a fog for several weeks. 

I have a better understanding and compassion on the folks in Texas, Puerto Rico who just lost all they had.  You cannot imagine the feeling of utter defeat and loss until it happens to you.  But I must also admit that I experienced something else a few days after that loss—-a “lightness” and feeling  in my mind of freedom about those possessions. I mean by that, relief, that I no longer had to polish the silver, keep the dogs off the leather couches, de-scale the espresso machine, water the plants, take the clothes to the cleaners, etc.  There was nothing to look after anymore—-and I rather liked it.  

Of course I had to go out and purchase new things. But today, almost two years later, I still only have one suit, two belts and two ties!  “Less” really is a happier way to live than more.  I miss the things that used to be of help to me in the old house, but I am not eager to have as much ever again.

Being content with what I have is something that has taken a profoundly new meaning to me over the past few months. Even now, as I prepare to move into the new house, I am not anxious at all about purchasing new things.  No matter what I buy, it can all be taken away from me in an instant by a tornado, fire, etc.  My mind thinks more now in terms of utility than in amassing nice things to look at.

It’s been said that if you really own something, you can give it away; if you can’t, it owns you.  God forbid that this new house or anything in it ever owns me!  I am happy to have and share and be a good steward for what He is providing, but all the things I once used to look forward to returning to after a long trip will never be there again. Better to focus on cherishing the “ones” He has given me than the “things” I have procured or acquired.

dean  barley,

Dean Barley


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