Yesterday, among stories about technology deployment, I read one featuring State Department employees who noted, before Secretary Hillary Clinton, a desire have the Firefox browser. I can appreciate that — it’s a good browser — but when an undersecretary pushed back (correctly) that nothing is really, in deployment and maintenance, cost-free, the Secretary replied from a position of stewardship:
Clinton then told her staff to have a look through their closets. “The more money we can save on stuff that is not cutting edge, the more resources weâ€™ll have to shift to do things that will give us more tools,” she said.
“[That reminds] me of what I occasionally sometimes do, which I call shopping in my closet, which means opening doors and seeing what I actually already have, which I really suggest to everybody, because itâ€™s quite enlightening. And so when you go to the store and you buy, letâ€™s say, peanut butter and you donâ€™t realize youâ€™ve got two jars already at the back of the shelf â€“ I mean, that sounds simplistic, but help us save money on stuff that we shouldnâ€™t be wasting money on, and give us the chance to manage our resources to do more things like Firefox, okay?”
I do this. Because I have a strong option for United States-made and union-made clothes, I “shop my closet” for what can be used longer, can be mended or altered. I gave up Netflix because my household video collection has good selections and I occasionally cast through my pantry to see what oddments can be used up for buying more groceries. Indeed, there’s nothing new here; these are old habits inherited from thrifty relatives. Shadows also cast from times of deprivation and want. (You’re welcome to share helpful tips.)
But we have resources other than material ones, and I would like you to examine these, too. Many of us have spiritual resources so close and familiar that they go unappreciated and so get stored away. When times are good — life is easier, we have more exposure to other influences or time to absorb them — it’s possible to try a variety of new spiritual influences. But when the days are long and work is overbearing (or absent), and there’s no time for basic physical needs, then — and I say this with humility, having been on both sides of this — then a lot of spiritual practices just look like self-absorption. From the outside, a free spirit might look like a dillitante.
What’s in your spiritual closet? I can think of a couple of things immediately. First, singing — sometimes humming — hymns along to meditate on the words, to sift and digest their meaning. (I go back to “Eternal Ruler of the Ceaseless Round“; it seems one grandmother went back to “How Great Thou Art“.)Â Another is not journaling per se — many do this and know its value — but re-reading old journal entries. Were old prayers answered? An old lesson relearned. Sometimes an old crisis remembered puts a present crisis into a different light.