It was a movie about the Civil War, I believe.
A woman stood alone while marauders trashed her one-room cabin. I’m sure they were looking for an AWOL soldier, some food, or ammunition. They had no business being there, and they moved recklessly through the home as if they were in a barn or playing basketball.
One of them was skinny and disheveled. He looked like the creepy kid who stands next to and slightly behind the biggest kid on the block, taunting the little guy down the street.
This skinny little bully, who could never say “Boo!” if he wasn’t with a gang, casually walked over to the fireplace and picked up a small china angel from the mantel.
The lady of the house took a hesitant step forward, groaned slightly, and uttered a meek “Noooo…”
Her voice trailed off as she saw his face.
With a fiendish grin, he stared at her, opened his hand and the small treasure smashed into a thousand pieces. He turned his back and walked out the door, crushing the already shattered pieces under his grimy boots.
The lady crumpled into a heap of tears.
I did too.
I remember nothing else about that movie.
Each time I replay that scene in my mind, I am once again overwhelmed by anger and dismay.
I think of her angel. Maybe her grandmother brought it from England. Or maybe she got it from her husband on their wedding day. She had most likely wrapped it in an embroidered handkerchief and a handmade quilt and placed it lovingly in a trunk. She might have good-naturedly threatened her husband with bodily harm if anything happened to it on the journey West.
From a house full of memories, she had to carefully choose those few items she just could not bear to leave behind.
Whatever its history, the look on her face as it was dropped – callously and without cause – told the whole story.
She lead a minimalist life, not by choice but by necessity. She held one or two items that brought her joy and retold their stories to herself and her children and whoever else would listen. She lived with little and loved every bit of it.
I, on the other hand, live in excess with the soul of a minimalist. For all the world I would just love to pare down, make it sleek, and lose the extra.
But good golly, Miss Molly. I should have started a long, L*O*N*G time ago, when I had a lot less.
For I live with not only a sense of joy about all I have, but also a sense of loyalty to those who have gifted me so generously and a sense of miserliness, as in If I get rid of this now and need it later, I’ll have to buy one and it will be more expensive, so...etc., etc., etc. You get the idea.
So each time I fly anywhere, in the moments just before takeoff, I say this prayer: “Oh, dear sweet Jesus, please let me come home so Ana doesn’t have to go through all that stuff.” And when we land safely, I breath deep and swear I’ll go home and purge.
Alas, I do not.
But when I think of that dear soul – fictionalized or not – who probably lost half of everything she cherished as one small china angel fell to the floor, I feel the weight of my excess.
God has told us more than once to be generous and help those in need. Surely, some of the baubles, trinkets and gewgaws that adorn my shelves and gather my dust would be more highly valued in someone else’s home. The clothes and books, dishes and baskets.
There are plenty of honorable businesses that accept the used and support the needy.
And I hope that, before Ana really does have to go through all of this, I will have “opened wide my hands to my brother, to the needy and to the poor.”
And maybe, in that, I will find even more joy.