“American Pickers” is one of those reality TV shows I find irresistible. Two guys travel throughout the USA poking around in people’s garages and barns to discover unrecognized treasures, then bargaining with the owners for a sweet deal to purchase them and cart them away — what’s not to like?
On one show, Mike said to Frank, “You don’t regret the things you buy; you regret the things you didn’t buy.” Frank stroked his chin, nodded his assent and said, “Yup.” In my easy chair, I stroked my chin, did a quick review of my life and said, “Nah!”
The truth is, I could not think of one thing I regretted not buying. Not one. Part of the reason for this is that I’m a child of the Great Depression. My parents started dating when they were sixteen, in 1928. They agreed that it would be irresponsible to marry until my dad got a full time job, and jobs were hard to find. Eight years later, he was hired by Thomas Bread Company (English muffins, you know), and they tied the knot. Ten months after that I was born. The Depression was still going on, but dad brought home a regular paycheck. Through my early childhood, the family never went on a vacation to any place that cost money. We always drove to Grandma’s house in upper New York State. When I was about ten, my parents splurged and took us on our first real vacation — a few days at a beachfront rental in Ocean Grove, NJ. I remember all of us feeling kind of luxurious, but also a little guilty.
The other factor that ties into my non-materialistic bent is my early exposure to the teachings of Jesus. I still remember how Mrs. Heinz taught our Sunday School class this lesson:
Jesus said, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:15-21)
I remember how Mrs. Heinz put a small barn up on the flannelgraph board; then replaced it with a larger one; then added more barns, until the flannelboard was covered. In the end, the barns were all I could see. The rich man himself was covered. His barns were full, but his soul was empty.
So when Mike says, “You don’t regret the things you buy; you regret the things you didn’t buy,” I don’t get it at all. Personally, there’s nothing I regret not buying. By contrast, the rich man in Jesus’ parable had lots of regrets about the things stored in his barns.
— Pastor George Van Alstine