May 23, 2024

Growing up, one of my favorite memories was when my grandfather and I would go fishing together every summer at a local lake in Illinois. I noticed that every time we went, he would bring the same beat-up, old-looking tackle box with us. As a young child, I never understood why he still held on to it. He could easily have bought a bigger, better, newer tackle box than the one he had.

I eventually got curious enough to ask him about it, and he replied, “This was my father’s tackle box; of course, I was going to hold on to it.”

He told me it used to be an ammo box during WWII but his father turned it into a tackle box after the war. Being the virtuous man he is, my grandfather turned it into a lesson. He told me that just because something might be broken, that does not mean it cannot be fixed. In the same way, just because something is old, that does not mean it does not work. People are the same way. We get old or think we cannot do things as well as we used to, and sometimes, we end up “throwing” ourselves away, too.

This way of thinking has transported into other areas of our lives as well, including our relationship with our possessions. What I learned as a young child that day is that the generations that grew up before globalism thought very differently about their stuff than modern Americans do today. Things used to matter more because things were harder to come by. From family heirlooms like a diamond necklace right down to something seemingly as insignificant as a tackle box. In generations prior, you often used to hear stories of how all sorts of items, things and pieces were passed down from generation to generation. It was a way to tell part of a family’s story, the same way my grandfather told me the story of our family.

Things used to be built to last because of the reasons above and how differently we as a culture used to think differently about our things. Items were often passed down because people used to value their possessions. Simply put, we have become too wasteful. In doing so, we have lost a part of ourselves and our past.

The damage it has done to our culture is visible for all to see. We have allowed empty concepts, born out of our vapid desire to consume, to balloon into the problem it has with consumerist concepts such as “fast fashion,” “throw-away culture,” and “planned obsolescence,” seemingly taking over every part of our lives. The pollution, waste, and environmental damage from our wastefulness fill our screens with images of landfills, plastic oceans, and black skies: a testament to our desire to consume without giving much thought to the things and items we use in everyday life.

If we do not value our past, why would we expect anyone to value a better tomorrow? Our past includes the possessions we sell, buy, carry and interact with every day. Until we learn to begin truly appreciating our possessions again, we will continue this culture of waste and excess.

Our relationship with things should matter not just for the environmental damage it has caused but for the cultural value we are continually robbing ourselves of.

So next time you think of throwing something away and buying something new, ask yourself if that item is the tackle box in your life. You might end up missing a special moment with your grandson one day. 

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