A number of years ago, while Kim and I were grocery shopping, somebody left a large scratch along the side of our maroon minivan. Clearly, another car had scraped it and drove off.
Pushing the cart of groceries, I noticed the scratch while we were still a bit away and immediately felt a pit in my stomach. Such an ugly mark, and so obvious to anyone who glanced at the passenger side of our van.
Worse than the scratch itself was the fact that the driver who had left it there had departed the scene without leaving his or her contact information so that we could access this person’s insurance for the repair.
This meant that if we were going to get the scratch fixed, we would have to pay for it ourselves. More likely, though, given the advanced age of the car, the scratch would remain there, spoiling its appearance.
My wife and I drove away in silence, both pretty upset.
In the quiet, I began to reflect on how the incident had impacted me.
I began noticing the anger and started to wonder why I so upset about a scratch on our minivan. Righteous anger that we had been wronged? Maybe a little I suppose. But more than that, I was upset that something of ours had become damaged.
The reality is that our vehicle was a large investment for us. It had cost us a lot of hard-earned money to buy this car, and we had spent a lot of time and energy caring for it.
If I’d gotten a similar scratch on my bicycle (for example), I wouldn’t have been nearly so concerned. It wasn’t nearly as expensive. But because the car represented a major financial investment for us (our second largest, after our house), I had a lot of emotions invested in it too.
There is a very true reality in life that we become emotionally invested into those items that cost us the most. Almost naturally, without warning, where we spend our money is where our attention and affection is drawn.
Unfortunately, too many of us are tying our hearts to the wrong things. We are devoting our lives to material possessions that will never bring lasting joy.
We shop for bigger houses, faster cars, trendier clothing, and cooler technology, and we shove more and more stuff into our already packed closets. Subsequently, our physical possessions require us to invest more and more time and energy into caring for them.
But lasting fulfillment can never be found in things that are temporal by nature. And our discontent is evidenced in our excess.
Instead, it is important for each of us to look outside ourselves—to find investments that tie our hearts to things that bring real joy, lasting purpose, and meaningful fulfillment. I’m talking about our family, our friends, our spirituality, and the causes we believe in.
That is where we should be devoting more of our time, energy, and financial resources. Because when we do, we are drawn to them even more.
Living with less enables us to be more generous and giving.
I’ve seen over and over again that minimalism can be the quickest shortcut to a life of greater and more lasting significance.
A lot of people might want to be more generous, but until they free themselves from the burden of spending too much money and accumulating too many possessions, they will not be able to do it.
There’s a richness in turning our excess into someone else’s supply. And the sooner we give to others, the sooner we discover the great potential each of our lives can hold.
Generosity, then, is not just an outcome of minimalism. It can also be a motivation for it.
Wouldn’t you like to be making a difference for the better in the lives of others both near and around the world?
Of course you would. Minimalism can get you there quicker. It is a shortcut to significance.