The following article and true story, A Story to Live By, was written by Ann Wells and was first published in the Los Angeles Times. I recently used it as a sermon illustration as part of my annual “Less is More” message to the people of Mountain View. I know you are busy, however, do take the time to read this short but meaningful article.
My brother-in-law opened the bottom drawer of my sister’s bureau and lifted out a tissue-wrapped package. “This,” he said, “is not a slip. This is lingerie.” He discarded the tissue and handed me the slip. It was exquisite; silk, handmade and trimmed with a cobweb of lace. The price tag with an astronomical figure on it was still attached. “Jan bought this the first time we went to New York, at least 8 or 9 years ago. She never wore it. She was saving it for a special occasion.
“Well, I guess this is the occasion.” He took the slip from me and put it on the bed with the other clothes we were taking to the mortician. His hands lingered on the soft material for a moment, then he slammed the drawer shut and turned to me. “Don’t ever save anything for a special occasion. Every day you’re alive is a special occasion.”
I remembered those words through the funeral and the days that followed when I helped him and my niece attend to all the sad chores that follow an unexpected death. I thought about them on the plane returning to California from the Midwestern town where my sister’s family lives. I thought about all the things that she hadn’t seen or heard or done. I thought about the things that she had done without realizing that they were special. I’m still thinking about his words, and they’ve changed my life. I’m reading more and dusting less. I’m sitting on the deck and admiring the view without fussing about the weeds in the garden. I’m spending more time with my family and friends and less time in committee meetings.
Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experience to savour, not endure. I’m trying to recognize these moments now and cherish them. I’m not “saving” anything; we use our good china and crystal for every special event such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, the first camellia blossom. I wear my good blazer to the market if I like it. My theory is if I look prosperous, I can shell out $28.49 for one small bag of groceries without wincing. I’m not saving my good perfume for special parties; clerks in hardware stores and tellers in banks have noses that function as well as my partygoing friends. “Someday” and “one of these days” are losing their grip on my vocabulary. If it’s worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see and hear and do it now.
I’m not sure what my sister would’ve done had she known that she wouldn’t be here for the tomorrow we all take for granted. I think she would have called family members and a few close friends. She might have called a few former friends to apologize and mend fences or past squabbles. I like to think she would have gone out for a Chinese dinner, her favorite food. I’m guessing – I’ll never know. It’s those little things left undone that would make me angry if I knew that my hours were limited. Angry because I put off seeing good friends whom I was going to get in touch with – someday. Angry because I hadn’t written certain letters that I intended to write – one of these days. Angry and sorry that I didn’t tell my husband and daughter often enough how much I truly love them. I’m trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives. And every morning when I open my eyes, I tell myself that it is special. Every day, every minute, every breath truly is… a gift from God.
What a powerful message from an article of a well-known secular newspaper. As I spoke that Sunday morning my own heart was moved to realize, in a greater way, how to grasp the days the Lord has given me. Less is More isn’t about some new lofty resolutions for life or about trying to just become a better person. Less in More is a way of life. It’s about regularly taking time to pause and think about, where are we, what are we doing and where are we going.
Our lives are full of so much clutter. As a people, whether in fast paced America or almost as furious South Africa, we have crowded our lives with so many things that we are missing the lot. The article was a great reminder to me about stopping long enough to take in what is happening in my life and in the most meaningful relationships God has given me. And I am learning “Not to ever save anything for a special occasion. Every day you’re alive is a special occasion.” A gift from God… for His glory.
“Less in More” is a recurring message I preach every January in our church, but mostly to myself. I am becoming an advocate for simplicity. I know, the world around us is screaming from the opposite direction and shouting “More is Better” however, that is not so. I love what Paul said in 2 Cor. 11:3, “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”
Here is what we can discover. God is always simplifying, and significant relationships really do matter the most, not only my relationship with Him but with those around me whom I dearly love. An article like the one in the L.A. Times is a wake-up call for some of us. Think about how Less is More may help bring a proper balance to your complex and complicated life… and then go for it!
Tom’s Less is More message from January 29, 2012 may be listen to or downloaded at www.c4bs.org A Story to Live By, was written by Ann Wells, Los Angeles Times, September 7, 1999.