Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Collecting Attributes


Each man has his own gift from God;
one has this gift, another has that.
1 Corinthians 7: 7

 
I'm a collector from way back. As a child I collected fancy paper napkins. In high school, candles. Pitchers, irises, fans. I've enjoyed my collections, even as I've abandoned one for another. There’s joy in the searching, joy in the gathering, and joy in the sharing. And for me, the search usually starts where there are antiques.  My favorite haunts are antique shows where dozens of dealers assemble their booths, teasing me with aisles and aisles of displays, just waiting for me to dive in. And drool.

As I enter such a show, my eyes scan the booths, skimming past the Fiestaware, the Depression glass, and the Monkees lunchboxes. Like a missile locking onto its target they find what they are searching for: antique purses.

Ooh, there’s a beaded one from the twenties. And another marked with a Whiting and Davis stamp. There’s a Lucite purse from the fifties (the fifties . . . does this mean I’m an antique?) The purses are not in perfect condition, but the fact they have missing beads, torn linings, and tarnished handles only adds to their character. I make allowances.

I usually enjoy such gatherings, quite willing to drown in the smell of old wood and dust. Yet on one day, in such an antique-lover's paradise, I had trouble concentrating. Among the Chippendale chairs and the tin toys I was drawn to the dealers instead of the deals. A lady from Texas greeted every customer with a firm handshake and a southern drawl. A dealer from Oregon charmed with a soft voice, wearing a veiled hat. Another had a laugh that ricocheted off the glassware. Turns out the people were as interesting and unique as the items they sold. They were collectable.

That's when I started collecting people—or at least their attributes Smiles, thank yous, the twinkle in their eyes. The way they sang in their cars, kissed their baby's nose, or offered me their place in line. The by-product of collecting strangers' attributes was that I began to open my eyes to some attributes in my own backyard.

I now notice how my husband always warms my ever-cold feet when we share the couch—without me even asking.  I enjoy how our oldest daughter Emily emails photos of family events within a few hours of getting home (I am quite willing to relinquish the pressure of chronicling every gathering to her able hands.) My heart swells when I watch the face of our son Carson light up when he makes his new baby smile (wasn’t he a baby just yesterday?) And I marvel at the stories our youngest daughter Laurel shares (she's a special-ed teacher) about the students that challenge her—and that are changed by her.

Once I started to look at the amazing qualities within my own family, it became easier to skim past the parts of their personalities I didn't want to collect. For just like antiques, my family is not in perfect condition—and shocker—neither am I. Yet the fact we have missing beads, torn linings and tarnished handles only adds to our charm, and even our value.  I make allowances for them, and I appreciate them doing the same for me. "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." (Luke 6:37)

Although my collections come and go, I hope I never give up collecting attributes. There is joy in the searching, joy in the gathering, and joy in the sharing. There is good happening all around us if only we open our eyes and see it. The special looks, idiosyncrasies, and attributes of the people in our lives make them as collectable as precious treasure. And as such, they are . . .

Priceless.