Sometimes the most valuable physical objects in our lives are worth the least when measured in dollars and cents by the outside world.
“It was my mother’s piano,” said my friend.
She was describing an old upright piano she had recently moved into their newly constructed home.
“It originally started out life as a player piano and was converted to a regular piano afterward.”
This limited description alone, if heard by an outsider, could never accurately identify the deep and valuable emotions embedded into this piece of furniture.
“My mother died when I was 2 years old,” she said.
Suddenly, with a handful of words, the value to piano leaps from an interesting and potential collector’s item to the one you could never offer her enough money to equate to the value in her heart.
Life seems to break people into two camps – one influenced by commercial values and the other by powerful emotions are hidden out of sight in the small number of objects. The former’s value might be what the perceived selling price might project. The latter quietly sits inside someone’s heart paying precious dividends with each encounter.
Another friend recently shared with me about an old watch he was considering having reconditioned. My friend can buy any watch he wants, but this one is different. Decades-old, the watch keeps decent time, is not flashy, and reminds him of moments in life he never wants to lose.
“I remember once in the Army we were marching in the dark through water – my hand on the back of the guy ahead of me – and the band gave way and the watch dropped into the murky water,” he said.
He said he reached down into the abyss feeling around in the mud and somehow up came up with the watch. He then told me about the same watch almost disappearing during a paratroop jump, hanging on by a single Velcro thread when he happened to look down at the right moment.
Again, the watch – as a tool to tell time – is replaceable. A watch that can roll back time is priceless.
We all have these in our lives. I keep an old skateboard in my home office that instantly takes me back to the day it arrived in the mail – all the way from California. I’d been skating for a while and saved up to buy a competition-level board. Opening the brown cardboard box with my mom, I placed my nose against the edges as in hopes of somehow capturing a whiff of the mystical air of southern California.
Every time – without fail – I think of that moment I shared in the kitchen with my mom at the age of twelve years old.
My friend says the piano will always be with her. After she is gone, however, she said she does not care what happens to it. That alone underscores her heart and motivations – the value is not locked in the physical but rather the purity that resides deep in her heart.