Squirreling Things Away . . .

In the Fall, the animals are busy getting ready for our normally harsh Minnesota winters by gathering food and building winter dens. It is a natural, instinctual act for them to prepare to survive the cold and snow. While they work, we can see them running around and looking very busy, however, what they are actually doing is not clearly visible. Come Spring, after the snow has melted (extremely early this year), so much that had been hidden for months is now revealed. Like these pinecones (pictured) the squirrels busily packed away in dead trees last Fall for their winter survival. Obviously, not all of what they squirreled away was needed due to our very mild and short winter … or maybe these were just forgotten stashes of food.

As children, we are also taught to be prepared and plan ahead to survive. It starts with children stories like Aesop’s Fable: The Ant and the Grasshopper. It continues into the teen years with things like the scout’s motto “be prepared” and planning for a career. Then, it follows us into adult hood with retirement accounts, insurance policies and worldly concepts like our leaders stressing our need to be prepared militarily to remain free … among other things.

Obviously, survival is a human instinct, too. And, who can argue with the life lessons and meanings found in that Scout Motto?

The Scout Motto is: BE PREPARED which means you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your DUTY.
▪ Be Prepared in Mind by having disciplined yourself to be obedient to every order, and also by having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it.
▪ Be Prepared in Body by making yourself strong and active and able to do the right thing at the right moment, and do it.

My purpose in writing about this is not to disagree with the “Be Prepared” motto, I believe it is an important trait of human life. Living by that motto can grow a person of great character. Being prepared helps to assure that you have a secure, happy life. And, when it comes to the animals, even if a squirrel’s stash of acorns and pinecones are never needed, their “squirreling away” behavior is the only way they will live through a harsh winter … they must store more than they need –just in case.

On the other hand, I think that we humans have twisted and exaggerated our “be prepared” behaviors to an unhealthy extreme. We “squirrel away” mountains of things that we will never need or use. I know that I am guilty of this, how about you? How many times have you purchased something just because it was on sale? Do you keep your good dishes, best tools, nicest shirt tucked away for special occasions that turn out to be very rare and never used? Are your pantries and freezers filled with food purchased on a whim and are now out of date? Is there a storage building. basement, or closet in your life filled with “things” that you no longer use or need but, that you keep “just in case” some day you will?

Why do we do this? Is it because it was a lesson we were taught young? Or, is it because we lack faith and trust in ourselves and others that we will have what we need when we are in a desperate situation? … maybe it is a combination of many things. Several reasons for hoarding (I was trying to avoid that word, as it has a very negative connotation for this “keeping” behavior that many of us have) that will hit home for most of us are shared and discussed at the UOCHD website: Sentimental Value – Decision Making – Organizing. – Responsibility – Control/Perfection – Scared to Forget/Perfectionism – Letting go of Things/Change.

In my opinion, the scariest thing we try to “squirrel away” is time. Putting off things for “tomorrow”. “Waiting” for a perfect moment to do something. “Saving time” by taking shortcuts or rushing a situation instead of enjoying the moment. Time can not be stored and saved for another day like all of our other “stuff” can. We can only use the time we are given. We can only live in the current moment … I think our American lifestyle would be much more healthy for us all if we could get rid of all of our unnecessary “stuff”, squirreled away only things that are truly necessary for survival, and find a way to make the most of every moment of time we are gifted with.
This is a major challenge … old habits are very hard to break …

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~ by bearyweather on April 2, 2010.

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