“So you use what you’ve got and you learn to make do.
You take the old, you make it new.”
— “Jack of All Trades,” Bruce Springsteen
Think of something you own that would be worth $1 at a garage sale, but is priceless to you.
For me, that object is an antique General Electric transistor radio which sits on a shelf in my bedroom. I’ve had the radio, which once required one square battery, for over 35 years. Although it no longer works, it’s been with me on every move I’ve made, dating all the way back to my college days (which is further back than I’d like to admit).
The black and silver box was given to me in the early ’80’s by my grandpa, who grew up during the Depression.
Boom boxes were big when I was growing up, and I still remember the warm summer day when I asked my grandpa to buy me one. Because I was his oldest grandchild, my grandpa often spoiled me. I just figured he would drive me to the store and buy the coolest boom box he could find.
But that day, he gave me an even greater gift. He asked me if I wanted his old, used radio that was collecting dust in his garage. At first I thought, “this must be a joke.” Then I realized, if I wanted to listen to music, I’d have to enjoy it from this old, dingy box instead of a bright flashy gadget — that played cassette tapes — which everyone else seemed to own. I took the radio home that night and appreciated being able to listen to music in my bedroom whenever I wanted.
Looking back, I wonder if my grandpa realized what kind of impression he was making on me by teaching me to use what I have instead of coveting something I could not afford. To this day, I still find myself hanging on to things longer than I should just to avoid buying something new. Sometimes, I do it to a fault. But to me, if being frugal is a bad thing, I’m good with it.
I believe when you put less importance on things, it gives you more space to place more importance on gifts which can not be bought. Gifts like time, memories and events.
Just a few days ago, I took the radio off the shelf in my bedroom and placed it outside on my deck so I could take a picture of it for this column. I figured there was brighter lighting outside and a better background — with my flowers in full bloom. I casually placed the radio down and snapped a picture. When I went to pick the radio up, I noticed a tiny white feather to the left of it.
Understandingly, the feather means nothing to you. But it means everything to me.
Ever since my younger sister died almost two years ago, my close friends and I have been casually finding feathers in the strangest places. One friend found a feather on her dog’s nose, another discovered one on her foot while she was sitting on her back patio. To us, the feathers are a sign from my sister, a perpetual prankster, that she is safe and happy in heaven.
If you are wondering, at this point, how an old beat-up radio and an occasional feather could mean so much to someone, I’ll admit, I wonder that myself sometimes.
But then I thank God I am not so enamored with material things that it blinds me to what is really important.
Think about it, when you die, what can you take with you?
I believe the answer is nothing or everything.
Nothing, — if you put your faith in material objects, and everything — if you place importance on what is real.
I’ll never have the best car, house, wardrobe or jewelry as someone else. But I don’t care.
Even though some of what I own is really old, I have what I need.
Everything else is just icing.