A father ponders his priorities during the Christmas season. A story by Peter Lewis.
This week, we welcome a new voice to the pages of fathers.com: Peter Lewis. He tells stories out of a passion to warm your heart and spur you on to wondrous adventures in fathering. Enjoy!
We live in the age of stuff, the man thought.
He was staring at his barn from the dining room window. It was so chocked full that he recently had to build storage racks in his garage to hold yet more stuff.
As Christmas approached, the frantic obsession with stuff really bothered the man: the commercials, the crowded parking lots, the platinum credit cards, the ridiculous fat men in red suits, and those inane songs with their shallow, temporal sentiments.
He shook his head. It’s a never-ending pursuit of things, he thought.
And he just kept staring at the barn and wondering Why do we do this? What’s the point? How many cordless drills and coffee makers and broken DVD players does one guy really need? And the answers didn’t come. But the questions kept pounding in his head.
More, more, more—more things, bigger things, more expensive things. It didn’t matter what the things were as long as they had more megapixels, more square footage, more horsepower, and more cup holders; or came in colors like mulberry and mango; or could be financed for 72 months with no money down.
And we have to have them now! the man barked aloud. No waiting, no saving, no anticipation—just sign here please and then there’s a jingling of new keys and you reach for your pen and try not to drool on the contract.
And he listened to the imaginary jingling keys and sipped his coffee ferociously.
You can’t take it with you, he heard himself say to the curtains, So, why do we have it at all? And then he shook his head gently and felt a bit disgusted (as if he’d just gorged himself on three pieces of holiday pie), and his eyes glazed over with embarrassment—embarrassment for himself, for his culture, for humanity itself, and for our endless pursuit of stuff.
His mind started spinning and the worthlessness began seeping in and it all made him a little nutty and the barn seemed to bulge before his eyes—squeezing stuff out of every window. Three stories tall and I can barely get the lawn mower in it, he thought. Then his mind wandered back across the snowy road and in his imagination he was peering into his open garage at the new storage racks with the rows of containers full of stuff he didn’t really need that he’d bought with money he didn’t really have and he thought For crying out loud there’s room for 58 plastic storage bins! and for one crazy second he wondered where he’d put the matches.
He started to beat himself up. Have I done anything that really matters? Do I have anything with any real value? Or is it all just plain stuff? And then he thought of the words of Jesus from the book of Matthew, and of his barn so heavy laden, and he felt convicted and guilty.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
But then the man remembered how hard he’d tried, how many sacrifices he and his wife had made, all the time and effort they’d put in, and his dander got up and he took a stand and said, Now wait a minute, hold on, this isn’t all of it—this is just the stuff. There’s more. Much more!
Just then a pickup truck crunched to a stop in front of the barn. The door opened and a young man stepped out. The man staring out the window recognized the young man’s broad shoulders, the tilt of his head, and the way he hitched up his collar against the cold.
The young man turned, caught the eye of the man in the window, and waved. I could pick that wave out of any crowd, the older man thought, and he waved back and smiled.
And in that instant, all the fretting about all the stuff melted away.
The young man leaned forward and started jogging across the road. The older man put down his coffee and trotted through the house toward the front door—toward his best friend, toward the rock-hard handshake, the clasp on the shoulder, and the long hug.
Family and friends, the man thought, eternal investments—And yes, thank you, God, there are some things you can take with you. And he heard the boots thumping on the porch and the gratefulness of the season flooded over him as he grabbed the knob and yanked open the door for his son.
Peter Lewis (the “older man” in the story) is an author, photographer and graphic designer with a passion to tell stories that encourage fathers to fall in love with the best job they will ever have. Read more and listen to his podcasts at thedadstoryproject.com. Peter and his wife live on a farm in western Maine and have two grown children, a son and a daughter, and two adorable granddaughters.