Receiving, giving and finding completeness


These days, I’ve been pondering over the meaning of the phrase “living life well.” It could find its roots in something as simple as a garage sale. Being friendly to neighbors and friends and working alongside my Sweet Al sure seems like a recipe for living life well.

Does living well mean being in the junk business and passing things along to others who need it, giving good deals, fair prices and blessing others? People seem to leave happy and Al makes a couple dollars. For me, I get to be the beneficiary of knowing one more thing is gone from the property.

Somehow, I’m always wrangled into one of Al’s garage sales. It’s my least favorite-thing to do all year. The only way I can be civil and make it through the weekend without strangling my Sweet Al is to believe it is for the betterment of everyone. Surely, this “event” has to be more than just accumulating things, kicking up dust and working from sunup to sundown.

We went through a garage sale just a couple of years ago. We cleared out a seven-bay garage of “stuff.” One of the garage sale goers asked us if we were having a multifamily yard sale. We told them no, it’s all the junk we’ve accumulated for 45 years. Afterward, we took loaded trailers to the dump.

No matter how much we downsize, organize and give away, more and more things seem to find a home in one of our garages. We’ve become “Sanford and Son” all over again. For months, I’ve been taking sacks of excess stuff to the thrift store and a consignment shop. I thought I was tackling it until we started pulling out things for the garage sale weekend.

Sweet Al’s mother didn’t throw a thing away. When she passed, it took him over a year to go through all that she left behind. Her life’s existence was a surrounding of beautiful antiques and sentimental keepsakes. She didn’t turn loose of much, and now my Sweet Al struggles to turn loose of those very same things, as well as his own collectibles. Admittedly, I also have my struggles with releasing certain things. I hope I’m learning to live out of the fullness of life and not for the accumulation of things.

There is a concept of giving, thereby growing up, becoming complete. Scholar and novelist Jonathan Cahn wrote, “When you’re a child, your purpose is to receive more than you give. But when you become an adult, your purpose is to give more than you receive. Only those who give have become complete.”

So, does that mean giving away Al’s junk is completing me? I would like to think so.

That explains a lot. It’s not about years of living, but it’s about years of giving. Older people who haven’t learned to give freely haven’t grown up yet. If that concept is true, which I believe it is, if they aren’t givers then they haven’t realized their completion.

Our eldest daughter and son-in-law come home every year from California. This year, just like so many years in the past, Keith, our son-in-law, spends his vacation helping around the property, then setting up a garage sale. My daughter edits my books and updates my social media. They give more than they receive and are finding their own completeness. We are totally indebted to them both for their generous hearts.

Life has to consist of more than just acquiring things. I’m coming to find that life is more a depiction of who we are, what we can do, achieve and, yes, how we can bless others by extending our blessings to others. In fact, we are finding we are blessed beyond ourselves.

Erma Bombeck, American humorist who achieved great popularity for her newspaper column from mid-1960 until the late 1990s, writes, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.”

Dying at the young age of 69, Bombeck lived a completed life. She gave. She is gone, yet the talent given to her was gifted to us through her writings and still remains in our hearts today.

The book of Matthew in the Bible states, “Freely given, freely give.” Maybe that’s why I keep writing a weekly column and producing books. Perhaps Bombeck was on to something. Not only can we bless others with our wares and collectibles, but also through talents given to us.

Final brushstroke: Garage sales. I could take them “and” leave them. As for my Sweet Al, he feels he is being completed through a process of appreciating what he has then passing it along to someone else. For me, well, I get to come along side my Sweet Al for a weekend and try to be nice doing something I could live without. It’s certainly never been about making money. It’s about Sweet Al and even myself, finding our own completions. Maybe that’s what living well really means: receiving, giving and growing up.