Do You Really Own Anything?

Black and white photo of a family sitting on the porch of their home. Text: by Jay Fadden

Last weekend, I was walking through a neighborhood and noticed a number of people outside working on their yards. They were preparing for spring and doing cleanup. I continued to walk and would occasionally wave to the people. I then noticed their homes, and it made me begin to think a bit about ownership.

Many people own a home, a car, and various other items. I am not sure if people still do it, but there was a time when people would burn their mortgage papers after they made the last payment on their home. It was exciting because they were out from under the payment and now owned a home.

I thought about ownership as I continued to walk, and a thought struck me. We truly own nothing material. When I think of the word “own,” I think that an item is yours for as long as you want it, but our life on earth is not eternal. We do not own any items—we possess them. Now, you may say that it is semantics and that I am playing with words, but let me give you an example.

When I was a child, I lived in my parents’ home. They had paid off that home, so many would say they owned it. But they sold that home, and it has been sold again since that time. My parents moved to the Cape and again had a home that was paid for in full. When they died, the home was sold, and a new family lives in that home now. All that my parents possessed has been redistributed, and they no longer control those items. They possessed the items; they never owned them.

Think about the neighborhood that you grew up in as a child. How many of the families that you knew in that neighborhood when you grew up there still live there? I would guess not that many.

You may be asking, what is the point? Here it is. In one hundred years, almost every person who is on this planet now will be gone, and others will be on their land and in their homes, and we will be distant memories. We will be long gone, and other people will have taken our place in our homes, our jobs, and in society. That cycle will continue for the next thousand years.

The only things we truly own in life are our souls and the love we share and receive.

Do not live your life to possess things. That is fleeting. Live your life distributing love and creating a better world. Consider that where Jesus, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, and other great people lived or what they possessed is not important. We do not remember them for their possessions. It is what they did that resonates with us all.

Some people demand respect, but no one is entitled to respect just because they have acquired a lot of possessions. That may impress some, but it is hollow. People earn respect through actions and deeds. People earn respect for how they live their lives and the lasting impact they have on others.

The greatest gift is not a car or a home or jewelry; it is love, and love is free to give and receive. It is by far the most valuable thing we have, and yet it is often underappreciated and underutilized.

Don’t get caught up in numbers and possessions. Set your gaze on something of much greater value, which is loving each other and making a difference in the world. Love is eternal!


Do You Really Own Anything?