I was sitting at my kitchen table sipping my morning coffee while the news played on the television. Suddenly, a long series of commercials came on. Each one droned on the drumbeat of more, more, more. They urged us to buy more, to have more, and to do more. Finally I grabbed the remote and hit the mute button. I looked out the window and my thoughts drifted back to Little Frankie.
Little Frankie was my godfather. A first generation Italian immigrant, he was already in his late seventies when I was a boy. He was tiny and bent further by age and a lifetime of hard work. He lived on the hill above us in three rooms of a run down, crumbling house that was over a hundred years old. He had no electricity. His running water came from a mountain spring that ran next to the house. He cooked and heated his home with the same cast iron stove. He didn’t bathe as much as we do now and would be considered ripe by today’s standards. In truth, he was living like it was 1870 even though it was the 1970’s. Still, I didn’t mind. I would go up and visit him for hours. We would sit and eat fried potatoes and talk. I always left him feeling happier. His eyes and face had a peace, serenity, and quiet joy that I rarely see in people anymore.
The consumer economy, the businesses, and the commercials will continue to urge us to buy more and more and more. I think I learned from Little Frankie, though, that Less is More. Spending our lives getting stuff doesn’t bring us joy. Working, stressing, and running the rat race only makes rats of us all. Little Frankie taught me that it is far better to have less and to love more. He taught me that peace, joy, and oneness with God comes from a life well-lived not cash endlessly spent. He taught me the only thing you can truly keep is the love you give away.
Joseph J. Mazzella