Self-sufficiency not sufficient to get through eternity

By Judy Brandon: Local Columnist

My great uncle Harris lived all his adult life alone and he existed only on the bare necessities.

It was not that he could not afford a comfortable lifestyle. Harris just didn’t believe in spending any money. When he died, he left an array of worthless possessions that cluttered his house and a bank account that reached far upward nearly breaking seven figures.

Harris was a peculiar figure from the beginning. After coming home from World War I, he cashed in all of his soldier paychecks and bought government bonds. He put them in an old trunk, locked it and for years carried the key around his neck on a string. His collateral included farms, nice brick homes, and acres of rich rice lands that he rented out to the farmers in the countryside.

He also had dual vocations: He was a builder during the week and a barber on weekends. He ran the “OK Barber Shop,” cutting hair for 25 cents. Harris continued his building endeavors until his late 70s. After he reached 80, he gave up contracting, pushed his barber chair to the back, scratched out “barber shop” on his storefront sign and wrote over it “cafe.”

The sign then read “OK Cafe.” There he sold beer and peanuts.

Anytime we would go and see Uncle Harris on our visits back home, it was out of obligation because after all, he was my mother’s uncle. Always his welcome gift to us was a pack of gum. His instructions were to split it between the four of us.

The year that America had faced the Cuban Missile Crisis, we dropped by to see Uncle Harris. His house with its bare furnishings was cold and bleak. The 25-watt light bulb that hung from a long cord barely lit in the living room. Boxes were stacked in one corner, empty coffee cans recycled as plant containers were displayed with the remains of plant cuttings he had retrieved from the woods.

Harris was excited to show us an addition to his house, a “wash house.” We thought that unusual because he didn’t even own a washing machine. The addition had a concrete floor, was partially in the ground and had cinder block walls that were two blocks thick. Uncle Harris claimed the addition was for laundry but his conversation was consumed with the threat of nuclear war and precautions to escape its damaging effects.

When we left his house that day, mother and daddy agreed. Harris had not built that extra room for a washing machine; he had built it out of fear and his attempts to control his own mortality. He had always been a self-sufficient man. Mother and daddy had talked to him on several occasions about his soul and his spiritual condition. His response was that he had no need for all that religious stuff. He could take care of things by himself. My parents thought his wash house was a visual sign of the impending storm that was brewing in his heart as he approached 85.

Well we didn’t have a nuclear war and Uncle Harris died of natural causes.

Thinking about him I know this: It is not our provisions that will determine our spiritual fortune. It is the sufficiency that we find in Christ. For my great Uncle Harris, he thought self-sufficiency could get him through anything. I just wonder how he has fared in eternity.

Judy Brandon is an instructor at Clovis Community College. Contact her at: cbrandon@plateautel.net