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When you get a little closer to the end of this earthly life, you start to wonder: Hey, what am I going to do with all this stuff?

Sorting through my sister’s belongings as she readied to leave her home of 51 years, we had what seemed like a mountain of linens: towels, sheets, comforters, and blankets. They ended up being dropped off at the local United Way office to make their way to Texas to help those who lost everything in Hurricane Harvey.

A beautiful doll collection, originally meant for show, but that will warm any child’s heart, was donated to Ronald McDonald House in Los Angeles. Suits and dresses went to charities that help poor and homeless people who are job hunting or just re-entering the work force. Furniture, housewares, china, crystal, etc. were picked up by second hand stores that benefit various charitable institutions.

What a joy to know that these belongings, and others, will help make a difference in someone else’s life. That knowledge makes it so much easier to let it all go, even those items of sentimental value that just won’t fit into a downsized lifestyle. My sister and I had great fun, though, ambling down memory lane as she looked at various items, relived special moments, and then resolved to detach, move on and live in the present:

We must look higher than all earthly thoughts; detach ourselves from every material idea, crave for the things of the spirit; fix our eyes on the everlasting bountiful Mercy of the Almighty, who will fill our souls with the gladness of joyful service to His command “Love One Another.” – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 38.

The original plan had been to hold an estate sale to unload that five-decade accretion of material goods, but her husband’s sudden illness and long-term hospitalization made it too difficult to arrange. I realized, as we donated all of those possessions, that the satisfaction she’ll get in her heart and soul by donating everything will, I believe, far surpass the usefulness of the money that the sale would have generated:

For the poor shall never cease out of the land; therefore I command thee, saying: ‘Thou shalt surely open thy hand unto thy poor and needy brother, in thy land.’ – Proverbs 15:11

Prove yourselves worthy of his trust and confidence in you, and withhold not from the poor the gifts which the grace of God hath bestowed upon you. He, verily, shall recompense the charitable, and doubly repay them for what they have bestowed. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 278.

As we age, we all go through this exact same process. We slowly learn that all of our material goods, all of our cherished possessions and every physical thing we mistakenly think we own will soon belong to someone else: “There is no good in what thou dost possess today, for another shall possess it tomorrow in thy stead.”Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 72.

We learn, if we focus on the spiritual things of life, that our hearts long to be free from the material and attuned “to the Divine infinite love:”

I earnestly exhort you: let not your hearts be fettered by the material things of this world; I charge you not to lie contentedly on the beds of negligence, prisoners of matter, but to arise and free yourselves from its chains!

The animal creation is captive to matter, God has given freedom to man. The animal cannot escape the law of nature, whereas man may control it, for he, containing nature, can rise above it.

The power of the Holy Spirit, enlightening man’s intelligence, has enabled him to discover means of bending many natural laws to his will. He flies through the air, floats on the sea, and even moves under the waters.

All this proves how man’s intelligence has been enabled to free him from the limitations of nature, and to solve many of her mysteries. Man, to a certain extent, has broken the chains of matter.

The Holy Spirit will give to man greater powers than these, if only he will strive after the things of the spirit and endeavour to attune his heart to the Divine infinite love. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 38-39.


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