This I Believe

Kelly - Springfield, Missouri
Entered on July 7, 2007

Stuff We Are Made Of

I am an old newlywed. I teach, I knit, and I love, love, love to dance in the kitchen with my husband. I am pretty settled in my domestic ways. I love my antique dishes and linens and the fact that my kids are old enough now that I have banned plastic from my kitchen almost completely. My silverware matches, my glasses coordinate. I am a closet domestician who loves to bake.

My new husband, on the other hand, has an eclectic cache of plastic everything and not so, well, you know, domestically coordinated kitchenware. When we married we found we owned two of many things, kitchen appliances, televisions, ironing boards, and an extra bed. I have designated this the Summer of Purge and am determined to let go, mostly of his stuff.

I have felt burdened by all of our stuff in the basement and am ready to clean house physically and emotionally to give a good foundation for this new life. During a National Writing Project institute this summer, a friend shared that her new in-laws lost their home to a fire. While a collection envelope was created, I thought how fortunate for me. I have all this stuff and they have no stuff. Serendipity.

I began to pack up stuff: pots, pans, dishes, electronics, a Christmas tree strand, a string of lights, and more. With every packed box, I felt lighter, better, liberated from stuff. Our new friends showed up with a trailer yesterday. We piled stuff on. Something that surprised me was their genuine smiles, easy conversation, and warm hugs. I couldn’t help but wonder how I would feel if I were them. Would I be so gracious? So kind? So quick to smile?

This act was not random. It was planned. We knew the house had burned. We began to collect items to give and plan to give more of whatever stuff pops out of the boxes in the basement. I think a random act of kindness comes at a moment of surprise, not so much to the recipient, but to the giver. This happened to me yesterday while wrapping drinking glasses in tissue to tuck in a box. I decided to bake cookies and place them, as a surprise, in a large donated pot.

With every cookie my daughter and I formed in our hands and rolled in the sweet sugar and cinnamon, I thought about how wonderful life is to provide these opportunities to give and to love, even those we don’t know. I felt giddy with kindness, but more than that, I felt significant in this world while standing barefoot in my kitchen, warm from summer, warm from the oven, baking Snickerdoodles, wearing a polka-a-dot apron, and learning about the stuff we are made of.