Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Using Things and Valuing People






My mother  collected, (but never used) beautiful teacups and saucers.  There they sat, too high up in the kitchen cabinetry even to be admired.  Caked in accumulated kitchen grease and dust, they were taken down every so often to be gently cleaned in the sink and then re-deposited on freshly-scrubbed shelves for safe keeping.  For years she mourned that she didn’t own a proper set of “good dishes” until she was gifted with a set by her children when she was an old woman.  Alas, they met with the same fate as the china cups and were, for all intents and purposes, cherished but unseen, and considered too precious to be handled and too expensive to replace if they (God forbid!) got chipped or broken! To my knowledge they were never used. 




I believe that this was the state of affairs in most homes of similar social standing.  Many people didn’t own Fine China, and those who did felt that it was only to be used for “special” occasions that somehow seldom or never materialized.  Barely anything justified their use, no matter how august the circumstance.  Birthdays, wedding showers, baptisms, anniversaries, graduations and deaths of loved ones all fled by, and there the china sat, safe, unbroken, unused and, now-that-we-think-of-it, USELESS.             
 
This is Dogwood by Royal Albert, one of my sets that I love and use often!
Is it any wonder that Fine China has become less and less desirable to own by the proceeding generations?  People have suggested that these lovely things are no longer valued. Judging from the “oohs and ahhhs” that emanate from my visitors when they see the collection of china that is lavishly incorporated into my home decor, I wonder if something else is afoot.  Taking into account the shock-bordering-on-panic that accompanies my use of fine china to serve my guests for no reason other than that we are together for tea and I value their esteemed company, I suspect a truth far more insidious. It is not that Fine China is undervalued, but that people have under-estimated their own worth.  I would not want to be surrounded by beautiful things I did not feel worthy of using.  What would be the use or the pleasure in that? 

Tea Art by my friend Wanda Burrill-Kowalczyk.  Two classy cats having tea, much like Wanda and I!  


A perspective that values things over people is misguided at best and immoral at worst.  In my house and in my life the opposite is true.  I have opted to use things, beautiful things, delicate things, breakable things, and to value people.  People are more important than things, even gorgeous things, even things as materially valuable to me as my very, very, best Fine China! This is truth.  A broken cup can be mended, or it can be disposed of and replaced.  A broken spirit is not so easily set right, and each of us is broken in some way.  It is as simple as that.


Chelsea was a lovely and lively six year old caught up in the excitement of playing with my dog Charlie, as her young mother and I sat chatting in my living room one rainy October afternoon.  Given one of Charlie’s many toys, Chelsea was tossing it into the dining area. Charlie was intent on running after it and bringing it back to her so that it could be thrown again.  Unnoticed by the adults present, with each toss, Chelsea, was walking backwards, getting closer and closer to a collision with my antique oak occasional table, until inevitably, the heal of her stocking  feet hit one of the legs.  She lost her balance and fell, landing on her hip, settling finally on her bum,  jarring the table, and knocking a topiary teacup onto the floor with a crash. 

No-doubt about it, Chelsea felt she was in major trouble. Thankfully she had not hit her head, and she was not physically hurt, although a little shocked by the experience, until she realized that the teacup had been broken in the process. Feeling the gravity of having broken something that did not belong to her, she dissolved into a torrent of tears, apologizing for destroying my beautiful china bauble.  My heart went out to her.  Ignoring the broken china at this point, I helped her up off the floor. “Hmmm”, I said, as I escorted her to sit next to me on the sofa. “my beautiful cup is broken, that’s for sure.  Did you do it on purpose?”  “No!”  she cried,  “It was an accident!” “I believe you, Chelsea and I accept your apology.  I am so glad that you weren’t hurt.  Do you think that the beautiful cup was more important to me than YOU are?” No answer. “Well, since I believed you that it was an accident, I want you to believe me that as much as I liked the cup, you are much more important to me. Do you believe me?” “Yes”.  “Do you know why you are more important than the cup?”  No answer.  “Because the cup is just a thing but YOU are a person.  A person is much, much more precious than a thing.   People are more important than things, always. Do you think you can remember that?” “Yes”.  So I lost a cup, but gained a friend for life.                  

2 comments:

  1. Such a lovely post. Thank you so much for sharing.

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