Monday, November 01, 2010


Empty Handed

Money is stolen and people die. The resultant tailspin will kill you if these things secure your final hope. The stories you are about to hear are true. The names aren’t changed; there are no innocents. I listen to stories over coffee. Here are three of them.

An older lady in her seventies her hand steady as she holds the coffee cup though her visage is clearly shaken. Twenty-thousand dollars in one-hundred dollar bills. This is the amount of money she told me she was keeping in her house. Perhaps I should have used the past-tense instead of present progressive here as the money is no longer in her house. It was stolen. “I want to kill the man that stole it. I know who it was,” she said. She has a guy who takes care of all her household maintenance and he is the guilty party. She’s not going to kill him though, she will let Karma do that; what comes ‘round goes ‘round. She’s spent the last months feeling deathly ill. This was all the money she’d had for retirement.

“How’s life treating you,” I ask Mike as I pull a shot of expresso on ice. He reaches for the expresso over the cart that pulls his oxygen tank. I expect talk of the weather when I ask that question; talk of death startles. “My girlfriend died two months ago. She had COPD like I do. Neither of us worked so we talked a lot. Texted a lot. She had other complications. Died of heart failure. They have me on Paxil and some other meds. Helps me through it.”

We call him ‘The Cowboy.’ When he goes home he puts on a western duster, 1800’s western garb and puts the spurs back on his boots. He’s been out on disability for three months, a knee injury, hip injury and sick wife keeping him out from work. “You go to church, don’t you,” he asks. He tells me he started going to church some weeks ago. Seems that both he and the wife lost hope during the interim. He put a gun to his head and was seconds short of pulling the trigger. What saved him? He couldn’t handle the thought of her being alone.

Marauders will come and take away those things we hold dearest. It is human nature to hold tight to those things we can taste, touch and see. Guaranteed though, in this world they disappear. In the most perfect of marriages one or both partners dies. The wisest and richest man, striving after pleasure and possessions has said he hated life for, “all was vanity and striving after the wind…”

Let us drink deeply the pleasures of life while they are ours; the laughter of friendship, kiss of a lover, money in the bank (or under the mattress). Let us also remember daily that material things are temporal. We must not trust in them for our security and significance. Investing our whole heart in treasure here warrants destruction and hopelessness. Setting our hearts on heaven secures hope and eternal security. Let us be wise with our investment.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Photo courtesy of Kelsey_Lovefusionphoto's at

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