It was a bright summer morning and the small talk of the neighborhood could be heard as I meandered through the crowd that had gathered in the yard of the old home on the corner of 5th and Madison. The old couple had been married for more than 50 years, but all of the laughter and love, trials and tears that were a part of this old home place had been reduced to an echoing memory. The porch was cluttered with the “stuff” of this now vacant house and the people, some who had known its inhabitants, some who were dealers in antiques, and some who were just curious about the goings on of an auction, were milling about and browsing through the musty smelling memorabilia turned merchandise. The clock had been ticking at the base of the big staircase for all of the old man’s life and all of his father’s and…well, now no one seemed to care. Dealers examined its old Seth Thomas label and tried to determine what it would bring. There were quilts that had been stitched at quilting bees in the old parlor and there was even one that had been a wedding gift to Great Grandmother, but it had been removed from the old rope bed in the guest room and thrown in a big pile of bed linens on the floor of the wooden porch.
At ten o’clock sharp the gavel came down and the auctioneer began to chant. His call was intriguing and it was easy to become lost in his song and hardly even notice the items as they were sold, one by one, to the highest bidder. Wardrobes, dressers, watches, dishes, tools, washtubs, crocks and hats with big boxes…all with numbers, sold to people with numbers, for dollar values. It all seemed such a thoughtless way for this old place to end. Yet the anxious bidders continued to nod with excitement as they anticipated taking home something that had caught their fancies.
The grandfather clock was different, though. At first, the dealers bid quickly against one another, until one by one, they were eliminated. Finally one of the bidders found himself bidding against an old white haired lady who stood solemnly on the bottom porch step . As I glanced her way, astonished at her persistence in bidding against the wealthy dealer, I saw a tear roll down her cheek. Knowing then that the clock was more to her than an investment, I strolled over as she held up her number, relieved that her competitor for the prized clock had finally relinquished it. “You see,” she said, “that’s my father’s clock…No price is too high.”
Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from the Saturday morning auction that is a part of Southern Americana. I doubt that the couple who ambitiously worked , played and raised their children in this old house ever gave serious consideration to the fact that one day this house and all of its contents would be listed on an inventory and sold to strangers. None of the members of this family would have ever considered selling out; not just a few years ago. But now things are different and it’s a little easier, now that the old folks are gone. It’s not so hard to watch the items go, one by one, knowing that each one is bringing its fair price. Life is changing and so these remnants of another time, are slowly bartered, and with them goes the recollection of the way things used to be.
There’s a sense in which we as Americans are witnessing an auction. It’s a grand estate…this home we call America and many sacrifices were made through the years to maintain it. It has weathered many a storm and has been a haven of freedom and happiness for generations.
Times are changing and those who built the house have long been gone. The “stuff” of this house is on the porch and the auctioneer is chanting to the crowd. One by one the” pieces” of this old home are placed on the auction block. Several of the most valuable and memorable items have already been sold and the prices they have brought have paled in comparison to their true value. Someone can recall a time when purity filled this old home, but alas it has already been sold out to immorality. Fidelity was a foundational part of the house, but it has been replaced and so the auctioneer sold it cheaply. Hard work and its rewards have stood side by side in the house for generations, but, alas they, too, have been split into small lots and are being sold a little at the time. The Word of God was the centerpiece of this old dwelling. How many memories emerge from its use in this place! The children were taught daily from its pages and the family gathered around it each night before bed. For years, now, though it has been unopened and forsaken on the shelf. Life without it just hasn’t been the same. It was placed in a box and auctioned off as a box lot along with public prayer, the sacredness of marriage, the leadership of fathers and the value of mothers in the home. Life is changing!
As a matter of fact, it is time for the bartering of life, itself. Could it be that the value of life itself could be defined by a mere crowd of bidders gathered around the front porch? They are always there in every auction crowd… those who take no thought for the real intrinsic value of an item… those whose interest in the piece is merely mercenary. Could it be that no one who remembers where this life came from, to whom it belonged in the very beginning, will even enter a bid? Doesn’t the thought of the real value of this precious article come to the mind of someone who recalls that it was a gift given by the Father before this house was even built? Which merchant in this thronging crowd can presume to know the value of this entity called life?
“What am I bid?” calls the auctioneer.
As a tear rolls slowly down my cheek, I enter a bid from the steps of the porch. You see, this is my house. That is my Father’s. And no price is too high.
“Thou hast granted me life…” Job 10:12
Article by Cindy Colley as first published in Christian Woman Magazine, Gospel Advocate, Nashville, TN