Usually I am not the type of person that brings the worries of the office home with me. Most days I completely forget the perplexities and challenges of my work the moment I leave my desk.
Today, however, something rankled me all evening, lurking in the background while I spent time with my children. At 11:30 pm it dawned on me exactly what bothered me: things.
I volunteer for a church and spend much of my day bookkeeping. I love my work and the camaraderie of the people I spend time with, and wouldn’t exchange it for anything. I am not paid for my work, but in exchange am immersed in love and community.
Recently I needed to set up a banking login. As I went through the security checks, the “secret question” screen popped up. These are some added security measures in place to ensure that nobody is trying to steal your information.
I’ve seen these before, but always opted for my own secret questions, never bothering with what showed up automatically in the drop down. This time there wasn’t a choice, and a list of questions needed to be answered before I could proceed.
I could only answer one question, well to be fair, maybe two:
What is your favorite vacation/holiday? Do high school field trips qualify? I’ve never gone on a vacation in my life, and I’m 38 years old. Why go on vacation if you are happy where you are?
What is your favorite theme park/amusement? Does the county fair I attended in fifth grade count?
What is the color of your first car? I’ve never owned one.
What is your favorite band? I listen to classical music.
What is the serial number on your watch? Okay, one I can answer, but no, my watch is cheap, and doesn’t have any numbers on the back
What is your favorite drink? This is the one I can answer, and it’s what I drink all the time: water. (Something tells me that this doesn’t count.)
What is your favorite food? Mostly I eat what’s in season, and everything tastes good if you help to grow it.
These are supposed to be universal questions for anyone, and I’m having trouble answering them? Eventually I worked through the list, making up answers as I went along, and proceeded before I realized that I should have saved a copy, as I’ll never remember any of the answers.
Things. Buying. Spending. Is that what makes me who I am?
Just after Easter I read a commentary by someone who noticed that fifty years ago it was unheard of to attend events and parties on Good Friday. Businesses closed and people went to church. Now Good Friday is calendared to pack in the most “fun” activities. The writer’s problem was not so much the irreverence, as the fact that people can no longer go even 24 hours without entertainment.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to preach to people who buy things. I’m aware that most people can answer those secret questions just fine, and I don’t feel better than anyone. There is, however, another Friday looming large: Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving when stores open early and close late. This day is calendared by businesses who want you and me to reach for our pocketbooks.
This year, reach instead for the hand of your spouse, child, parent, best friend, or neighbor. Look them in the eye and maybe we will all become quiet enough to hear amazing words of hope proclaimed thousands of years ago: “To us a Child is given.”
Remember that the biggest gift of all wasn’t something purchased that would eventually fall to sawdust this side of heaven.
I am sure that for every person, what lies beneath all the things of this world in each heart is a longing to experience love, genuine friendship, and eternal happiness. Money cannot buy this, but it is offered to us every Christmas as a gift.