“Really wife? You’re bringing the pumpkin?”
“How am I supposed to decorate for fall without it?” She defended, rearranging the plastic monstrosity that was taking up a sizable chunk of the suit case.
“It’s too big,” I countered.
At this point our 3-year old, Archer, walks in the room. “What do you think, Archer?” I asked him. “Should we bring the pumpkin to Japan?”
Archer looked at me and brightened. “Oh, yea,” he said. “I already packed mine.”
“You packed a pumpkin?” I asked skeptically, wondering if Kristen had bribed him somehow.
“Yea,” he said again and walked over to his wheely bag. After unzipping it he rummaged around for a moment and, sure enough, pulled out a smaller, yet just as decorative plastic pumpkin.
“You packed a pumpkin,” I repeated incredulously.
Needless to say I lost the pumpkin battle. But there have been many similar conversations in the time since we’ve started trying to fit our entire lives into six large bags. When we step back and look at it, it seems like an impossible task; reducing what was a family in a fully furnished, four bedroom house into a family moving across the world with what they can carry on their backs. How do we decide what fraction of our worldly possessions are the most important and deserve to fly over the ocean with us, and then figure out what to do with the rest?
I’ve been brushing up on my math lately, in preparation for my teaching assignment, so lets see if we can calculate it, shall we?
Each of us are allotted 2 suitcases, each a maximum of 50lbs. 1 carry on, 20lbs. and a personal item, such as a backpack, which will carry most of the products we need to survive the trip itself. So each of us gets a grand total of 120lbs of our possessions to bring with us to our new life.
Lets estimate roughly and say you can fit about 100 items in each suit case and 30 in the personal item. That give each of us approximately 230 items to bring with us, or 690 as a family unit. (Since Mia doesn’t get bags.)
That seems like a lot doesn’t it? We should have no problem bringing everything we want, that’s almost 700 items.
Except the average American family has about 300,000 items in their home.
So of our 300,000 items, we get 690. (And Mia, being a baby, already takes up a good deal of that.)
690/300,000=.0023 or .23%
So there you have it, our material possessions are being reduced by 99.77%.
When you look at it this way, assuming your eyes haven’t glazed over from all the numbers, it’s a pretty daunting task. So the question is; “What are the most important .23% of our possessions?”
Well, what would you pack? Currently my bag contains clothing items, a collection of tablets for use in my classroom, and several bags of board game pieces. (Which have been disassembled and the actual boxes left behind for space constraints.)
Does that say something about me? I feel like it’s one of those old idioms; “You can tell a lot about a man by what he puts in the two suitcases he’s going to start a new life with.”
Now don’t get me wrong, we’re not renouncing our materialistic ways and becoming minimalist hermits for God’s glory. It would be a noble endeavor, but I don’t think that’s what God has called us to. There is a nearly fully furnished house and working vehicle waiting for us in Japan. We will function much the same way we do here, just in a different language.
But this process has put a new light on what God has called us to do. He has asked us to show people in another world how much He loves them. And the truth is, we really don’t need a lot of possessions to do it.