Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “souvenir” as something that serves as a reminder. Have you ever noticed that while you are traveling, there tends to be a greater expectation that you “buy something so that you can remember the trip?” Visit a museum, amusement park, zoo, state park or restaurant and you will be seduced by an endless array of coffee mugs, refrigerator magnets, shot glasses, t-shirts and key chains. Sometimes we buy Salt Water Taffy with a town’s name on the box even though we go the other fifty-one weeks of the year without ever craving a piece of it. Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that the words, “Boy, I sure could go for a piece of salt water taffy right now!” have never been uttered out of my mouth. So, what’s up with that?
I’d be a hypocrite if I told you that I avoid the gift shops. I rather like purchasing those car magnets and stickers because they dress up my otherwise ordinary car and lifestyle. Cookbooks from other towns’ cafes and restaurants captivate me and sometimes I just cannot resist. There has been a shift in my focus through the years, though. The older and wiser I get, I tend to lean toward celebrating the moments that have happened rather than the loot we’ve accumulated along the way. A picture postcard from a museum gift shop, a smooth shell collected from a walk on the beach, a pottery plate I painted myself with my family in an art studio—these all become my treasures because of the moments we shared, not because of any dollar value.
The young man in Matthew’s gospel this morning (Matt 19: 16-22) goes away sad when Jesus tells him the key to eternal life with God requires great sacrifice and sharing our abundant wealth with others. Our kids’ kindergarten teacher taught them a song years ago for Valentine’s Day about how “Love isn’t love until you give it away, give it away, give it away…” My guess is that the young man hadn’t lived long enough to experience difficult times where reliance on God becomes humbling and necessary. I know for myself it has been in some of the more challenging moments of life that God’s love and the love of others has been made abundantly present. It has been through the example of others that I have learned to be more generous and less reliant on material goods for happiness.
What are your souvenirs? Look around at the things you have accumulated. Pick something up off a dusty shelf or coffee table and try to close your eyes and think about the moment, the people, the memory. That’s where the treasure just may be found, my friends.