As I type this, I’m taking a break from packing boxes. Three years ago we moved into this apartment and got rid of a bunch of stuff–we were going from a 2 bedroom/2 bathroom place to a smaller 1/1. I’ve tried to purge things every year or so that we’ve been here, and each time I’ve done it I’ve been appalled at the amount of stuff I’ve been able to give or throw away. You’d never guess what can fit in the nooks and crannies of this little place when one is as orderly as I am. But just because I CAN make it fit doesn’t mean I need to.
And so, as I pack these boxes, I’m reflecting on excess and enough.
Last week Andy and I went to our first Passover Seder. It was a really special experience, and one of the prayers in particular really stuck with me the rest of the week.
Dayenu means “it would have been sufficient.” There’s an upbeat song you sing that goes through a list of things God did for the Jews that would have been sufficient:
If He had brought us out from Egypt, and had not carried out judgments against them Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!
If He had carried out judgments against them, and not against their idols Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!
If He had destroyed their idols, and had not smitten their first-born Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!
If He had smitten their first-born, and had not given us their wealth Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!
If He had given us their wealth, and had not split the sea for us Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!
and on and on…
But the peppiness of the song to me belies the deep truth of the words. God ultimately led the Jews out of slavery and into the Promised Land, but they’re saying that if He had stopped at the first thing He did for them, that would have been enough.
It’s so different from the way I tend to approach gratitude. I tend to focus so much on what I don’t have or what I want to get next that I don’t reflect on what I do have.
If I only had this small apartment, and hadn’t just been presented with the opportunity to buy a larger condo, it would have been enough.
If I only had enough clothes to wear the same few outfits, and didn’t have the option to choose different accessories every day, it would have been enough.
If I only had food on the table, and didn’t have fresh organic vegetables to serve, it would have been enough.
I’m not trying to cheapen the solemn prayer by putting it parallel to my possessions. Rather, I think it’s a beautiful reflection that we can apply not only to whatever our concept of a deity is but to our everyday lives.
We’re getting rid of things once again as we go through the packing process. And though I know I have more things than I strictly need, I don’t feel like it’s exorbitant. My things make me happy. And so I should be thankful for them. Because if I only had a fraction of what I’ve been fortunate enough to accumulate, it would have been enough.