They are packing up my stuff. Our stuff. Our apartment.
I’ve retreated to the local coffee shop, because our small apartment in Rockville, MD feels even smaller now. It’s filled with boxes of dishes, books and Gerald and Mo, the movers. Later today the truck will be loaded, and tomorrow it will arrive in Syracuse.
Gerald in particular is interested in talking about what he’s finding. At first it felt awkward, answering questions about why I have a miniature wooden chicken coop and why there’s a picture of Bill and I dressed up in 18th c. clothes (were you pretending to be Betsy Ross or something?), but as time went on I appreciated how gently he cared for our stuff, and began to understand that this is what he does for a living. He boxes memories. His questions are his way of making his living… alive for him.
It brings to mind the quote from MLK Jr., ““If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
Of course, it’s possible that I’m romanticizing his work. It may be that this is simply his way of getting through another day – hearing stories of the things he’s wrapping in paper. For me it’s been a wee bit of ministry. Each question by Gerald provokes a memory for me. Each question creates another question in my mind: “why am I keeping this?” In the end, isn’t this all just vanity and dust?
Not today. Today, this is the stuff of memories.
There is a line between worshipping the past and honoring it. I think of Moses and the Israelites moving for forty years and think there must have been at least one person in that crowd that grieved the yarn stash they left behind. Each move I make I’m challenged to go full Kondo* and lovingly leave things in places where they will spark joy for others. Moving challenges us to determine what has value.
It begs the question – what would happen if our churches had to move? Certainly, the folks at Isaiah’s Table could answer this, as could those at Arlington Presbyterian (who have just moved into their new space!). If you had to move your church, are there things you’d leave behind? If you had your own Gerald asking questions about the oddities he found, would your stories of those items justify their need to be lovingly wrapped and put in boxes?
See you back in Syracuse. And, if anyone needs boxes….
* Kondō, M. (2014). The life-changing magic of tidying up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing. Ten Speed Press.