Slight change of topic: right after Christmas I started reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. I hadn’t touched them in about 18 years, and was surprised to find how much had stuck with me. Little Girl Cate definitely got her sense of ideal fashion from the Ingalls ladies, the pigs bladder balloon was never far from my mind in all these long years, nor the maple candy made in snow, nor the Indians riding by the front door.
I think as I child I thought mostly about what they had (Rag Dolls! A Bull Dog! Horses! Pumpkins in the Attic! A Rocking Chair Made by Pa!). As an an adult I find myself much more drawn to what they lived without, which was pretty much everything. Each book highlights at least one Christmas with the Ingalls. Some years they are near family, some they are in a little prairie town, and others they are so far from the nearest neighbor that the girls can’t imagine how Santa Clause would ever find them. But one thing stays they same. The receive meager, homemade gifts and a piece of candy or two, and they are overwhelmed by joy and gratitude. I guess when your only toy is an old corn husk wrapped in a blanket, a rag doll is a gift beyond measure, or when your coat is three inches too short in the sleeve, long, thick knitted mittens are all you could ever dream of needing.
They live a life in which they are grateful just to have food on the table, the whole family together, a home that keeps out (most of) the cold, and maybe a guest or two in the house. I live a life where I can feel mad about a piece of expensive technology that exists to do nothing but entertain me.
I read recently about solar powered MP3 players that played a reading of the gospels in the native languages of tribes around the world that have no written language, or whose denizens don’t know how to read. There was a picture accompanying the article of a man listening to the player, realizing he now could hear the gospel anytime he wanted, with one caveat. Sometimes, there was only one per village. I can’t help but think that, like the Ingalls girls, that man, those whole villages, protecting and sharing this immense gift, understand the nature of a real treasure better than I ever will. I’ll just continue to be annoyed by my ipod.