The past 3 years my husband, Mike and I have worked on decluttering our home with our 3 children. We teamed up together and successfully simplified our lives, making our house a place we love coming home to. What made the biggest difference in our journey was not the decluttering, no that was just the beginning. Over time we learned that decluttering was not just about stuff, best said by Joshua Becker, "It was about the removal of anything that distracted us from being present in the lives of those we loved." It was about loving the life we had and owning our lives in a way that was more intentional, becoming intentional about how we invested our time, money, and most of all our love. We learned that by giving to others and giving often we could reap the benefits of joy.
Over the years we have given many things away, often to people in need. But what we have gained is worth so much more than anything we gave away. As we gave away more and had less we gained more time with our loved ones, owned a more peaceful home, and the biggest gift of all has been the feeling that we finally had enough, the true feeling of gratitude.
Recently my husband and I had an experience that only could have taken place with our new attitude of giving. My mother and father have an old black truck, a truck with no air conditioning. We live in Georgia and the heat in the summer can become unbearable and at times dangerous for those of a young or older age. Our hearts began having concerns about my parents who are in their seventies dealing with extreme heat. On the days my mother would come over to visit , her cheeks would be flushed red and she would need water immediately on arrival. I could also tell she was reluctant to go home later in the afternoon as the heat became tougher to endure.
My husband and I after much discussion finally decided to ask my parents to trade cars. We would give them our Nission Sentra with air conditioning and they would give us their truck. Our second vehicle is a Volkswagen Jetta, so we knew we would have one car with air. The decision was finally made when we discussed how we both work at the same school, which is only ten minutes away, driving most days together. We called my parents and while at first they were confused and then reluctant, when we mentioned the concern for their safety they finally gave in. My mother came over that weekend and we exchanged cars. She explained to us she felt she could never repay us, as we assured her that her safety was payment enough. Seeing my mother drive away in her new car with a big smile on her face made us feel blessed. Knowing that this summer they would be safe, more free to take adventures, and seeing her more was in itself a huge gift. A priceless gift.
As she pulled away my husband was excited to get in the old truck, so he took the girls for a spin around the block. When he got back home he and the girls started to wash it up. Then he decided to get some black spray paint and spray over the rust. The truck is about 25 years old, so it started to have a lot of wear and tear on it. As he painted it, he got an idea, what if he painted the back with chalkboard paint, then our 3 girls could chalk the back.
Then he got a BIGGER idea....what if he painted the entire truck with chalkboard paint. He ran in the house to tell me about his vision. At first, I was like "You're going to do the whole thing?" Then I thought, hey if he was willing to give up his comfortable, air conditioning Sentra then he should be able to do whatever he wants with it. As he told me his vision for the chalk board paint, I started to get excited too, visualizing the girls chalking the truck, playing outside, and even having friends draw on it. My husband explained that he could bring it to church or school events and let kids draw making each event more special.
How simple, but how much fun did this all sound? Isn't this what I strived for all along? For us to be a family who appreciated time with each other and experiencing a life full of living?
Mike bought the paint right then and there and finished the truck in a few hours. The girls helped him prime the truck with a layer of chalk and then they hosed it down together, playing in the water.
He then went to the store to get a bucket filled with chalk and when he came back it was good to go.
The girls and us chalked it up, then we brought it to his parents and they chalked it up, a few neighbors who were curious joined in and added some beautiful art, and the next day we took it to the Memorial Day Parade and many people in the community chalked it or at least enjoyed seeing all the art work.
I only heard positive comments throughout the parade. Each person who saw the truck either smiled, asked to chalk it, or quite frankly looked puzzled...most likely thinking why would someone do that to a truck. But in my mind anyone who questions the reasoning might come up with some pretty interesting answers.
The real answer is we did it to create a positive experience for our children and to create lasting memories. Memories that show our children we didn't value things over them, we valued them. We didn't care what the naysayers would say, instead we loved life enough to spread it around for others to enjoy.
When I showed my parents what we had done to the truck and how much the family and community enjoyed it, they felt so joyful. Their humble hearts had a hard time accepting the gift at first, but when they saw we turned the truck into something special, something fun, they felt comfortable knowing that by trading vehicles they had also given us a gift too.
Now on every holiday, we will be taking our newly named Chalk Truck with us, drawing different pictures for each season. Can you imagine how fun this will be for children and adults this Fourth of July while waiting for the fireworks to begin? Can you imagine the conversations we will have with those people around us, building new relationships, and all because we let go of a comfort car and took on a vehicle a little rough around the edges.
In life we have a choice, we can live for stuff or we can live for others. May my family and I continue to learn how to be people with giving hearts, who love others enough to offer the gift of what they need. May our children learn that they have one life to live and that the value of people is more important than the value of stuff.
Alana Stanton is a kindergarten and technology specials teacher at Mulberry Elementary in Gwinnett County, Georgia. She has taught several grades over her 14 year career including K-3 literacy special, first grade, second grade, and kindergarten. Alana believes that relationships always come first in the classroom and the classroom should be a place where students thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. She currently writes for her blog, More Than A Lesson where she shares the stories of her classroom and her heart.