Things of our own making, even born of goodwill, have a way of getting in our way, disappointing and distressing us. Over time, such disenchantments, for some, could morph into resignation and isolation, or worse.
Providing for self and family is one such thing. It is both a virtue and a responsibility, and it is something most people resort to happily.
Yet, should those in the enviable position of being able to get stuff and more stuff to this end ask how much is just enough?
Several points come to mind. Is such acquisition productive or counterproductive? Is the recipient cognizant of the favor, ready for it, wanting it, or worse, deserving it? Is it compensating for some other social or psychological hangover faced by the giver? Is it economically sound and sustainable? Is it ecologically sound? Is it fair, globally? Is it simply a very docile, naïve response to skillful marketing?
Clothes, books, toys, kitchen wares, sports and entertainment equipment, artwork, etc. could easily make the list of things that one could continually splurge on. We must, of course, discount any acquisition that is an investment in nature.
Right away, a few identifiers of excessive acquisition become apparent. That would mean, for one thing, that these items are underused, collecting dust, ignored, misplaced, mismatched when one needs them, broken with missing parts, torn and tattered, stepped over and on – completely forgotten.
For example, has a child developed a favorite set of books or toys in face of being piled with more? Are they being repeatedly read or used so that an understanding develops, continual enjoyment and recollection results, and skills are created. Or with so many books and toys thrown at him literally, there is lack of attachment – belonging, love and respect. Yes, learning may be happening with a flood of a variety of stuff! But what is the type and nature of that learning? Superfluity leads to the development of negative traits because it is simply too exhausting to keep track of things.
This would be true even with clothes. Most of them end up not getting sufficiently used. Too many of them result in a nightmare when it comes time for washing, folding and putting away. Only a passing appreciation may develop for color, style, pattern, etc. Detachment and throw-away culture is not good for the pocket book or the environment from both production and elimination ends. Just because a washing machine is handy, it does not mean that a child or an adult should own a month’s worth of clothes. A child outgrows them. This is true of books and toys. It is difficult to recycle through them more than three times in a season. Soon, too, it gets out of “fashion”. The wastefulness is such a pity and so unfair when we consider those around us in need. The unfairness is by us, not by God. Our affluence is our test as to how we utilize our good fortune.
Similarly, having a dishwasher may push one to have a large volume of dishes and utensils. The sink gets piled up waiting for these items to be housed in the machine. Keeping the kitchen tidy is compromised because things are left to sit around and no one is interested in attending to an ever increasing chore. Yet when the dishes and utensils were just a few following a day’s use, hand washing would have managed the kitchen space better and made it look tidier.
Often children with fewer books, toys and clothes turn out to be more put-together, more informed and skilled adults because they develop patience. They are forced by necessity to spend more time with their smaller collection of possessions. They become less of a butterfly.
Is there a long-run relationship and respect being forged with the type of item one is driven to replenish? If not, then a complete halt in getting more is warranted?
A child who is benefitting from what is being provided him or her is certainly fulfilling for the caregivers. A tidy house with clothes, toys and books properly utilized and kept in their designated places is character building. People can manage a trickle. None can handle a flood. Affluence can be a pain in the butt if its downside is not understood and addressed.
To be able to buy things is good. To be able to do maintenance of things bought is better. Spiritually, bringing dignity to the way of handling things in one’s possession is indispensable for a pleasant, thankful, organized life.
“Our Lord, forgive us our sins and the excessiveness in our actions and make us firm in our resolve and assist us in managing the distractors.”