If there is one trait my mother and I share, it’s our tendency to collect things. I often think we’re like birds, scooping up any pretty or shiny object that catches our eye.
So the biggest struggle I faced in coming to college was figuring out what to bring. Over the past couple of years, I’d managed to shrink my nest of objects into something smaller and more manageable, but there was still a lot. Looking through all my trinkets and knickknacks suddenly brought a sense of shame down on me.
How could I cling to so much when so many others in the world had so much less? Why would I spend money on what was essentially junk? Why did I have some of this anyway? Weren’t some of these items too childish, too girly or too weird for me to keep around? I remember sitting on my bedroom floor feeling the stress and depression weigh on me.
That week I tore through my room looking for things to get rid of. I donated as much as I could, gave things away and even attempted to throw some of my more treasured items away. But by the end of it all I was more depressed and embarrassed than I had been before.
That weekend my mom took me school shopping. As we walked through the aisles, she questioned me on what I needed while I stubbornly insisted I needed less than I did. Then something bright caught my eye.
It was a simple yellow shape that vaguely resembled a bird. I only recognized the animal it was intended to be due to the weirdly shaped tail. The surface was covered with small dents and imperfections and the paint was sloppily done as if a young child had painted it.
It was a crude craft relegated to a clearance shelf. I loved it. My mom saw my excitement and smiled, encouraging me to get it. But I hesitated as the same guilt and embarrassment I’d been feeling all week returned. “Why?” I asked her. “I don’t need it.” “It makes you happy,” she answered, as easily as if I’d just asked what two plus two was.
I don’t know if it was the way she said it or something else, but her statement struck me. She was right; this little bird did make me happy. It made her happy. When I showed it to my dad, it made him happy too. Maybe I’d been looking at all this the wrong way.
Later that day I sat in my room holding the bird and thinking. God has blessed me in so many ways and truly my “cup runneth over” (Ps. 23:5). One of His blessings was in giving my family enough money not only to afford our basic needs but other things besides. Rather than being ashamed of that blessing, why not be grateful instead? Why hide the things I love instead of sharing my joy with others?
The little yellow bird now sits on a shelf in my dorm. It’s still a simple piece of painted wood hardly worth the $2 we paid for it. But it’s a reminder to me to not be ashamed or embarrassed of the joys and gifts the Lord has blessed me with. Instead I should be grateful for the things He’s given me and generous in sharing my blessings with others.
“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim. 4:4).