In Neil Gaiman's American Gods, there is a leprechaun who teaches the main character how to pull gold coins out of the air. He explains that there exists a Hoard, from which you can merely pluck what you need. And when you are done with it, it vanishes, returning to the hoard from which it came.
When I made the decision last year to sell off most of my physical belongings to fund my job search, I kept this metaphor close to my chest. Yes, I was getting rid of every movie I owned, almost all of the collectibles I had gathered over the years, and even a good deal of the books that I had had for so long. But I was merely returning them to the Hoard, and would be able to retrieve them again when the time came. And now, as I get back on my feet financially and start to rebuild my collections, I do so knowing that anything I buy is merely snatched from the Hoard, and will eventually vanish back to its origin.
The other day, I was poking through CraigsList at work, and ran across a listing that caught my eye. It was a list of about 100 DVDs, priced at $8 each. The titles were largely high quality, and it was apparent that this was someone's personal collection. But the note at the bottom that read "will sell all for $300" confirmed my hunch that the man who posted it was doing the same thing I had done - returning his prized collection to the hoard, to cover his short term needs and retrieve it again later, when fortune permitted. I felt obliged to help him in his quest, as so many of you helped me by buying bits from my own collection when the need was great.
After doing the math, I determined that I could even turn enough of a profit to snatch back a few of my own lost items from the hoard while I'm at it. I stopped by his place after work, let him haggle me up to $360, and felt good when I saw the same sense of "oh good, that covers this month's rent" relief in his eyes that I experienced when my own collection was liquidated. I pulled out the 20 titles that I wanted for my own collection, and the result is a list of 80 DVDs that are ready to return to the Hoard.
On the practical side, I'll leave the list as is for the next few days so my friends can take dibs on whatever they want. Then I'll push the lot to half.com (the Hoard incarnate, you could say) and let the free market redistribute this gentleman's collection to appreciative hands.
On the philosophical side, I think that many of us can learn a lesson from the Hoard. Which of your possessions are truly valuable to you, and could never be replaced? Which could you easily return to the Hoard for a few years and retrieve again later (or not at all) without really losing anything. How much would you even notice if it were to suddenly vanish from your bookshelf or closet?
And now that I think of it, I suppose the metaphor goes beyond physical goods as well. How much money can you afford to return to the Hoard, so those who have lost everything at the hands of nature's wrath can snatch it back in their time of need? How much time and thought can you spare to bring a smile to the face of someone who is in need of one? How much of your riches are really your own, and not just borrowed from the greater Hoard? And how much more valuable would that collective wealth be if everyone recognized its sacred status as a shared, liquid resource?
So, in the name of putting my money where my mouth is, I make this pledge. Any proceeds I get from selling this gentleman's collection (after recouping my initial investment) will be donated to the Red Cross. At the prices I have listed currently, that would come to a little over $150 (in addition to the $50 I had already ear-marked for the purpose).
What do you own that you wouldn't miss if you auctioned it off and put the proceeds to a worthy cause? It's an interesting question to ponder.