children • education • parents
relationships • marriage • the elderly


Zero to Fifty

October 2, 2017 by

“Live Minimally,” urged the advertising brochure that fluttered out from the shoe box. I read the words again and tried to understand their connection to my new brown shoes. Disgruntled, I held them up, flipped them over, and then bounced them in my hands, trying to estimate their weight. Not much noticeably minimal about them. A sole and shoelaces similar to other footwear – and the price tag? Definitely not small.

The shoes went into the suitcase along with my other clothing. The puzzling slogan went into my subconscious where it sat gloomily like a wet blanket. Minimal living was not among my plans for the next three weeks.

parents of the author at their wedding
Edith and David in 1967

Indeed, our suitcases carried more than clothing. In honor of a very big milestone my husband and I were loaded down with gifts. Among them: fifty origami masterpieces – twenty-five butterflies and twenty-five fish – each brightly colored and folded with care by our children for his parents – David and Edith – and each labelled with a calendar year from 1967 to 2017, the fifty years of their marriage. Though the butterflies were smudged and the fish a little cockeyed, the wall hanging, when put together, would be magnificent. Of that I was sure. We just needed to get it there, from Australia to New York.

There are times when small is beautiful. “Our life is frittered away by detail,” Thoreau cautions from his Walden Pond idyll. “Simplify, simplify, simplify! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumbnail.” Living minimally often does mean good things: downsizing material possessions and preserving our resources. Austerity, reduction, and cutting back belong in the English vocabulary and in our lives, somewhere.

Where they do not belong is in the heart. Here God promises the riches of a kingdom. The blessings of living for others and serving a goal greater than oneself will never yield small returns. A life lived for Jesus does not dwindle – rather, it explodes.

author's parents at their wedding
Wedding day, 1967

Way back in 1967 when our parents made their wedding vows, they were two slightly giddy young people, happy and in love. When we arrived at their upstate–New York home last month, they were still young in heart, still happy, still hopelessly in love. With greying hairs framing two beaming faces, they pulled us in across the threshold.

And then opened the door for more. We had arrived, but so had my husband’s nine siblings, each with spouse and children. Former students (our parents taught high school for years) arrived and brought their friends. This was one glorious celebration; nothing minimal about it. Exponentially, the love of two brought joy to hundreds.

Our parents are reaping generously now because from day one of their marriage they decided that life together could infinitely increase their ability to serve. Mom still can’t shake the habit of serving us all, while Dad, secretly pleased with his role as family patriarch, beams at her from the armchair among his tall grandsons.

Austerity and reduction belong in our lexis and in our lives, somewhere. But not in our hearts.

Not every day of the fifty years was golden. One afternoon we drive out to a special place in the Shawangunk Mountains, “Grandma’s meadow.” It is high summer: a field of flowers, sweetness of hay and wild strawberries, the lazy whistle of meadowlarks among the swaying grasses. The crickets are impossible.

Dad gathers us together and they tell us the hard stuff: regrets, mistakes, misunderstandings – the wounds and heartaches of two lifetimes. Gold must pass through crucibles of fire, but there is a great blessing on faithfulness to God and to each other.

Our parents are not out-of-the ordinary, but they did choose the way of compounded interest. Sophie Scholl, my heroine, describes living expansively – and the sad plight of those who don’t – much better than I can:

“The real damage is done by those millions who want to survive…. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.”
the author's parents
David and Edith at fifty years of marriage

Our parents lived exactly that joyful way. It’s put another way, by Jesus, in words they loved: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38).

We’re back home in Australia now. My shoes still look new. They’ve come thousands of air miles, but at some point I’ll put them on again and start walking around on earth. I think I understand now that living minimally is all about sleep deprivation and jet lag. But that’s just physical. My spirit, my heart, are full to bursting and ready for ignition. Like Sophie Scholl, may we all choose the bright way.


About the author

Dori Moody holding a cat

Dori Moody

Dori Moody lives at the Danthonia Bruderhof in Australia. She and her husband, Henry, nurture four children, one cat, and...

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