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The Things that Matter

Question: what’s the most precious material possession you’ve lost?

Reply here or in form at end of post.

My African teachers had reminded me that the things that matter aren't things.
My African teachers had reminded me that the things that matter aren’t things.

. . .  it was a reminder that the things in life that matter aren’t things.

 

I stared at the Ethiopian security worker as she removed my knife out of its case.

“You cannot take that with you.”

She handed the empty case to me and placed my multi-tool Leatherman by her X-ray machine.

 

My empty knife case
My empty knife case

 

I was sick.

This Leatherman wasn’t just a tool or knife.

It was a family heirloom.

 

A Leatherman is a multi-purpose tool.

It has knives, a small saw, scissors, and much more.

It’s a larger version of the venerable Swiss Army Knife.

"Leatherman" and "Gerber" are two of the most popular tools carried by Southern Outdoorsmen.

“Leatherman” and “Gerber” are two of the most popular tools carried by Southern outdoorsmen.

I’ve carried mine for years on my belt.

It’s been my go-to tool in Africa.

 

It was engraved with the name of “Bill Iles.”

My favorite uncle who gave it to me a decade ago.

I planned to pass it on to my grandson Luke, whose full name is William Luke Iles.

Billy Luke Iles.

 

"Billy Luke" Iles with his great grandfather, Herbert Terry. Harrisonburg, LA December 2014
“Billy Luke” Iles with his great grandfather, Herbert Terry. Harrisonburg, LA December 2014

 

Bill Iles with his mother, Pearl Stockwell Iles.  Dry Creek, Louisiana  circa 1990.
Bill Iles with his mother, Pearl Stockwell Iles. Dry Creek, Louisiana circa 1990.

 

The name "William Iles" or "Billy Iles" goes back in my family for eight generations.  The older couple in the photo are William and Addie Iles.  "Uncle Billy and Aunt Ad" were my great great grandparents.  The first William Iles came to western Louisiana in 1819 and received a Spanish Land Grant in what is now Beauregard Parish.  I'm asking my family: any idea about the date of this photo?
The name “William Iles” or “Billy Iles” goes back in my family for eight generations. The older couple in the photo are William and Addie Iles. “Uncle Billy and Aunt Ad” were my great great grandparents.
The first William Iles came to western Louisiana in 1819 and received a Spanish Land Grant in what is now Beauregard Parish. I’m asking my family: any idea about the date of this photo?

 

And I lost Bill Iles in the Addis Ababa Airport.

 

I forgot to put it in my checked luggage.

It was in a small bag in my carry-on backpack.

I’d already passed through one international airport that failed to detect it.

That’s scary in itself.

 

But the Ethiopian security agent was doing her job.

She pulled me aside and went through my backpack until she found my tool.

I didn’t even attempt to argue with her.

She was doing her job.

I didn’t do mine.

 

And I lost a special treasure.

Once again, I was reminded about the brevity of material things.

Right now at age 58, I probably own less physical items than any time since my teen years.

It came with a price:

  • Having an unforgettable estate sale that would do Bilbo Baggins justice.
  • It left us with an empty echoing house.
  • Then we sold that house.
  • After thirty years of living in it.
  • Then sold the land surrounding it.
  • Even sold my beloved Dodge Dakota

 

Don’t feel sorry for us.

We did what we felt led to.

We have no regrets.

We learned that you don’t need lots of things really to be happy.

In fact, going lighter has actually increased our contentment.

Go figure.

As the theme of the excellent book, Essentialism, teaches,

Less but better.

 

'Essentialism' is the best book I've read in the past year.
‘Essentialism’ is the best book I’ve read in the past year.

It was a trade off.

There are some things I miss.

There are a few items I wish I’d kept or brought to Africa.

But overall the things that bring us happiness are still with us.

Many are in our hearts.

Others live in Louisiana.

 

Losing my special knife was a blow.

But it was a reminder that the things in life that matter aren’t things.

 

Lessons from 'Essentialism.'
Lessons from ‘Essentialism.’

How could I complain about losing a knife when the people I love and work beside have lost so much more.

I think of Matthew and Sara.

A Nuer couple separated for nearly a year due to the South Sudan Civil War.

They lost everything.

Except each other and their precious children.

Pastor Matthew Dohl and his wife Sara.
Pastor Matthew Dohl and his wife Sara.

Then there’s Pastor Mark and his wife Agnes.  They’ve chosen to stay in their Eastern Equatoria (South Sudan) church field.

Their people are still there and so are Mark and Agnes.

 

Processed with VSCOcam with b1 preset

 Pastor Mark

 

How can I complain about losing a knife, a pine knot pile, or a pair of shoes.

When I know people who’ve lost their homes, cattle, way of life, and don’t even own a pair of shoes.

I think about what the refugees often say,  “I got out with the shirt on my back.”

Then their eyes will have that one-thousand-yard stare.  “But at least I got out.  Others didn’t.”

 

Once again I pray my oft-prayed petition:

“Lord, you’ve given me so much.

I ask you for one more thing.

A grateful heart.

Amen.”

NewLogoDec14

 

Over the years I’ve written several stories concerning the value of things and preciousness of people.

Enjoy:

Earthly Treasures: A Pine Knot Pile

 

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What is the most precious material possession you’ve lost?

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About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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One comment

  1. Curt and DeDe, I appreciate so much your stories on your blogs. I keep you in my prayers. I miss you both very much. I can tell from your writings that God has used you both in mighty ways. I can also see the growth in your Christian lives. I pray that the time you have left will be very good. I hope that you are both doing okay. I still have some very sad days, but I still rejoice in the knowledge that part of my family is with God and the rest of my family is actively involved in doing God’s will here on earth. We (Steve and I) continue to pray for you and your safe travels. Love you.

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