Yesterday afternoon, I threw away a popcorn machine… not one of those household table-top, stir-crazy popcorn makers like my grandpa used every Sunday night growing up. This was one of those commercial popcorn makers like they use at the movie theater. You know, the ones that make the good popcorn perfect for melted butter. The heating element burnt out so we decided to throw it into the dumpster.
Physically, it was an easy process. I put it into the trunk of my car. Drove 1/8 of a mile round back to our company’s dumpster. Opened the gate. Threw it in. And drove away.
Emotionally, it was also an easy decision. Sure, the machine likely cost hundreds of dollars when it was first purchased (and who doesn’t love popcorn)? But there was no long, drawn-out decision process and no second-guessing. I should have been sad to see it break, but I wasn’t. Probably because it had been donated to our company a number of months ago and didn’t cost us anything. And you know what they say, “Easy come, easy go.”
As I drove away from the dumpster, I couldn’t help but think of the decision, the process, and the relative ease of removing this piece of metal and plastic from our lives. This was a possession that I had nothing invested into – absolutely nothing. It was given to us freely. And as a result, it took no effort (other than a few heavy lifts) to immediately remove it from our lives… even though it makes something that tastes so good.
I couldn’t shake the cycle of reflection that had started in my mind and I ended up asking myself two questions about the lives we choose to live…
1) Is one of the reasons we have such a hard time parting with our possessions because we have so much invested into them? We’ve worked hard to get to where we are. We studied hard in school – sometimes for 16+ years. We searched for a career that would pay the bills and buy nice things. Once we found it, we committed 40+ hours/week to our craft – learning our field, taking risks, and becoming good at it. To show for our effort, we buy food and things and cars and houses. We have our entire lives invested into the things we own. So much so, in fact, that removing them almost seems laughable. Why would anyone purposefully live with less after spending so much of their lives getting to a point where they can own so much? The significance of our investment begins to cloud our thinking about what actually adds value to our lives… and what subtracts from it.
2) Am I then investing my life into things that really last? Lasting fulfillment can never be found in things that are temporal by nature. It is foolish to invest the bulk of our finite energy, time, and resources into things that can not bring significant meaning to our lives. The value of faith, love, hope, and relationships will far outlast metal, plastic, and glass. These are things that I long for – these are the things that deserve my resources. May I always pursue them with greater intensity than the items destined to be thrown into a dumpster.
And to think I was only intending to throw away a popcorn-maker…