Eight years ago, our sewer line backed up and caused a small flood in our basement. Gray water had entered the garage and the playroom. Our insurance company required us to discard everything that the gray water had touched. This included toys, knick-knacks, baskets of home schooling books and one of my most prized possessions: a hand-sewn pastel-colored quilt my grandmother gave me.
I told the insurance company I was willing to get rid of everything except the quilt. I even offered to have it professionally cleaned. The insurance representative discouraged me from keeping anything that could pose a health hazard to my children, especially the quilt. I was in tears.
You see, my grandmother gave me that quilt when I came to America almost thirty years ago. It decorated my daybed when I was a teenager. It moved into our home when my husband and I got married. My babies learned to roll, sit, and crawl on that beloved quilt. I cherished it with all my heart.
To me, it was more than just a quilt. It was a symbol of my grandparents’ sacrifice to bring our entire family from the Philippines to America. They uprooted themselves from Pennsylvania, bought a place in Virginia, took our entire family in, and worked in their late 70’s so that we can have a decent life here in America. After helping raise us to adulthood, my grandmother decided to go back to Pennsylvania and spend the rest of her retirement years there.
After shedding many tears, I had come to a profound conclusion. Why was I cherishing this quilt when I should be cherishing my grandmother who was in her late 90’s and was still alive in Pennsylvania?
Focus on Relationships
Sometimes, we are so distracted by too many earthly things that we forget that relationships are far more important. The desire to acquire, keep and maintain such things can take precious time and energy away from our God and our family.
These earthly things can take many forms. It may include material possessions, too many activities outside the home, too much time spent on the internet or social media sites, or even a constant desire for order.
Earthly things, when not viewed as gifts from God, have a tendency to create a sense of disorder in our lives. Consequently, we get so caught up with certain rituals to keep up that we tend to forget that relationships should always come first.
The seventh principle of the simple life is focusing on relationships, especially those within our household. St. Francis De Sales once wrote:
“Among all those who are included under the title of neighbor, there are none who deserve it more, on one sense, that those of our own household. They are nearest of all to us, living under the same roof and eating the same bread. Therefore they ought to be one of the principal objects of our love, and we should practice in regard to them all the acts of a true charity, which ought to be founded not upon flesh and blood, or upon their good qualities, but altogether upon God.”
Seven Simple Steps
As Christians, we are called to nurture and nourish the relationships our Lord has entrusted to us. Below are seven simple steps:
1) Love God first and foremost
Have a daily prayer life. This may include daily Mass, Scripture meditation, Liturgy of the Hours, Rosary, Chaplet, or favorite devotions. We should also take the time to listen to our Lord in the silence of our hearts. In our home, I try to wake up one hour before the children in order to have that much needed quality time with our Lord. It is a time when I kneel at His feet, surrender all my plans to Him and allow Him to change those plans for the good of my soul.
2) Support your spouse
Instead of giving presents during Christmas and birthdays, write love letters instead. When your spouse is upset, don’t cycle into their emotions. When there is an argument, apologize even it’s not your fault. When your spouse is complaining, don’t try to solve the problem but simply listen with undivided attention. Instead of giving solutions, give encouragement instead. Say things like, “We’ll get through this. We always do” or “Don’t worry. God is always in control.”
3) Cherish your children
Praise good behavior often. Write them love letters during their birthdays or when they receive a sacrament for the first time. Consider having a date night with your child. Assign a day for each child where you can have a one-on-one conversation with them, even if it’s just for five minutes. Ask them “What made you happy today? What made you sad? What was your favorite part of the day?”
4) Foster family time
Keep Sunday holy by focusing on family activities that are spiritually uplifting. Examples may include: Rosary or Chaplet walks, picnic at the park enjoying God’s creation, spiritual reading, Sunday vespers (Read on DivineOffice.org)
5) Respect your neighbor
Pray for one another. If someone has hurt you in the past, pray for him or her and ask our Lord to bless them. Avoid forming or saying negative opinions about others. For every negative thought you have of your neighbor, say three beautiful qualities about them instead.
6) Learn from Scripture
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. This will prove that you are sons of your Heavenly Father. In the John’s Gospel, Jesus also says, “Love one another as I have loved you. This is how all will know you are my disciples: your love for one another.”
7) Learn from the Saints
Be inspired by the words of Saint Vincent De Paul:
“Let us beware of complaints, resentments and evil-speaking against those who are ill-disposed to us, discontented with us, or hostile to our plans and arrangements…because they are our allies rather than our adversaries, as they aid us to destroy self-love, which is our greatest foe; and since it is they who give us an opportunity to gain merit, they ought to be considered our dearest friends.”
Much More Than a Quilt
Living a simple life allows us to focus on things that matter most. Relationships are the only things we could take with us from this life to the next. Our Lord will always remember how much we loved Him on this earth. Our children will always cherish the memories spent with us and will hopefully pass on our love to their own children.
When I finally had the strength to let go of my beloved quilt, I wrote my grandmother a very long letter. I thanked her for how much she and my grandfather sacrificed to give our family a better chance at life. In that blessed event of detaching from my quilt, I finally poured out on paper everything my heart wanted to tell her all these years.
My grandmother passed away last year and lived to be 96 years old. During her funeral, I realized something so very profound:
If I had not let go of my quilt, I would NEVER have written her the letter. She would never have known how much I loved her, how much she meant to me and how truly indebted I am for everything she had done for our family.
And although I was sad that I could no longer pass the quilt onto my children, I could pass on the love, generosity, and selflessness that my grandmother so quietly taught me.
Yes. I could pass on something more beautiful, something more precious and something that will truly last for eternity.