I have stuff. Lots of stuff. I have a significant collection of coffee mugs, for instance. These mugs are important to me because each one has a story of its own. I purchased a mug, or was given a mug somewhere around the world, and it resides now in the kitchen cabinet. Actually, only a handful are in the kitchen. Half of my collection is packed away in boxes in the garage. The other half of my coffee cup collection is boxed and stored in a friend’s barn. Truth be told, it’s not really a barn – it’s an old chicken coop.
When I look at my mugs I am reminded of why I have that particular cup. For instance, I have a cup I bought in Gibraltar. High on this spit of land that sticks out from Southern Spain, known as the Rock of Gibraltar, you will find monkeys living in the wild. They are the only monkeys to exist on the European Continent. Their official name is the Barbary Macaques, or Barbary Apes. Having been stationed at the Naval Station in Rota, Spain, I made several trips to this intriguing place. These tailless apes seem unfazed by the presence of humans. You can stand right next to one as though this was perfectly normal. Of course they are hoping you have some bit of food for them. So my coffee cup from Gibraltar has the likeness of one of these apes. The list goes on, with ships I’ve served on, places I’ve been, companies I’ve had business with, my favorite sports teams, etc. I even have one with a picture of my two granddaughters, Alyssa and Brooklyne, emblazoned on the side. Most recently I was given a mug from our Brazilian friends who are missionaries to Portugal, Eduardo and Cindi Angelo. We had a delightful time with them doing the sights this past week. They presented me with a coffee cup from Portugal. It’s definitely a keeper!
Another collection of stuff I have is hats – specifically, baseball-style caps. The same as with the coffee mugs, I have acquired a sizeable collection over the years. Many of these reflect a military story. Each base and/or military command seems to have a cap with the command logo festively displayed for all to see. Sadly, some of these historic caps (historic in that they are part of my history) have gone the way of all ball caps – worn out, faded, used up. But I’m always on the lookout for another sharp looking cap for my collection. My most recent cap is of the New England Patriots as Super Bowl Champions for 2015.
Another of my collections is not my fault. I honestly never set out to have such a collection. What I’m referring to is the increasingly popular Challenge Coins, originated within the military. These coins have no value except that which it has for the holder. However, they are important in that it identifies the holder as being a member of that military command represented on the coins surface. I have a couple hundred of these things! The history behind challenge coins, if there’s any truth to it, suggests that members of a command would be given a coin by their command for identification purposes. Since many military members eventually end up in a bar, someone may pull out their coin and slam it down as a challenge to others to produce their coin. The hapless fellow who did not have his coin with him would have to pay the bill for the next round of drinks. Today, commanding officers, as well as others within a command, might have coins of the command to give to personnel who have been promoted or duly honored in some way. If you can get a coin from a general or admiral, all the better.
My final collection of stuff is my books. I am an inveterate bibliophile. I love my books! The loft in our home is my “Man Cave.” I am surrounded by loaded book shelves. I began a serious collection of books when I entered seminary at age 28. As a pastor and preacher you might suspect that the majority of my books are religious – and you would be correct. But I have a significant number of books on history, especially American History. I have one whole bookcase filled to overflowing with books about the Civil War. But I have a confession to make: In the last year or so I have betrayed my love of books by converting to electronic books through Kindle. I know, I know, you’re wondering how I could have fallen so low. I fully realize I’m a disappointment to many of you, but having a small electronic device in my hand where I can read to my heart’s content is so much simpler and easier! I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me!
But the real issue in all of this business of collections is: Who’s going to get this stuff when I’m gone? Next week I turn 67, and though I feel great, the truth of the matter is I’ve got a whole lot less years ahead of me than I do have behind me. And I want my daughters to have fond and lasting memories of me. If they have to dispose of my ridiculous array of collections, I fear my legacy may be irretrievably tarnished. So I ask you: What’s a fella to do?
Did I mention my T-shirt collection?