Thursday, August 22, 2013

Do Hoarders Make Better Christians?

I heard an NPR interview with Kimberly Rae Miller, author of a new book, Coming Clean, about growing up with a hoarder for a father. I haven't read the book (although my wife is on the list at the library) nor do I necessarily plan to. I was intrigued by something she said, though.

Miller, several times, described her father as someone who "saw value in everything" even as he admitted there would never be a monetary value assigned. He sees value in everything simply because it exists. This is an intense understanding of inherent value.

As a born pack-rat myself, I can relate in some ways. I'm not sure if this is part of the hoarding psychosis, but I always feel much better having something than not having it - even if there's very little chance I'll ever need said thing. If I can think of a potential use for it (even if that use is just pure amusement), there's justification to keep it.

I've been able to move beyond this compunction (the real turning point was leaving college and having to fit everything I own in a 1997 Honda Civic), and I recognize the paralyzing pain such attachment can and does cause for people who've been unable to overcome it.

However, I also see some real value in approaching life from the perspective of inherent value. Something is worth having because it exists. Obviously this can create problems in a world where the market makes and sells virtually anything anyone can ever dream up. You just get too much stuff.

If we apply the idea to people, however, then hoarders might have an advantage when it comes to Christian life. At the very essence of Christ's teaching is the idea that everything has value by virtue of its existence. God doesn't make junk. Every person is worthwhile and valuable simply because they exist.

It's quite an oddity in a world where everything and every person is valued by their monetary production - dead, alive, or disabled. My wife has dismemberment insurance through her work - they have literally put a price on her limbs and her value without them.

We're so inundated with this concept of value as what we can get from another person that it's difficult to readjust to life in God's economy. Hoarders has become a cautionary tale through it's emphasis on TV. These are real people, with real problems - partly due to their isolation from society. As we work to include and encourage healthier interaction, perhaps there's also something we can learn and latch onto whereby we find mutual benefit.

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