For What It’s Worth

If you have never experienced the Oregon Coast, then let me begin by saying it is not the OC nor Jersey Shore.  There are no blonde bombshells in skimpy bikinis nor feisty brunettes fighting over whose mama makes a better sauce.  Just a sprinkling of Average Joes bundled in sweatshirts with wind-matted hair, arguing about which candy store sells the best taffy.  The “beach” in Oregon does not feature white sands and crystal seas.  Everything is usually grey and often hidden by fog.  Boardwalks and Piers are virtually non-existent, along with street performers and ferris wheels.  Instead, we have Haystack Rock.  A giant crag emerging from the ocean in the shape of . . . well . . .a haystack.  At least five cities lay claim to a Haystack, and all swear that theirs was the first.   With the exception of the few brave (and fully wetsuited), our beaches are not overrun with surfers and scuba divers.    Most people spend more time admiring the waves than they do jumping them.

There is a reason that while Courtney took Miami, Lauren ruled Laguna, and The Situation tormented the Shore, no reality TV has ever set up their cameras on the NW Coastline.

On a recent visit with my sister, we spent the day traversing the 101 (Coast Highway).  Heading South; we passed through Ghirabaldi and its almost famous Antiques Shopping Mall, we cruised through Rockaway with its almost famous Antiques Shopping Mall and Christian Summer Camp,  and we drove right past Tillamook with its  almost famous Antiques Shopping Mall and Cheese Factory.

The car finally came to rest in Pacific City at the Greatful Bread Factory.  A quaint  (everything on the Coast is quaint) bakery with a view (if you look out the window, across the highway, and between the trees) of the “original Haystack Rock.”   Known for their bread (of course) my sister ordered a burrito, my son a quesadilla, and my daughter a salad.  Pacific City didn’t have an Antiques Mall, just an average Thrift Store.  We walked off our lunch there.

Amid the usual thrift store treasures, my sister found a pair of turquoise skinny jeans and my daughter a pair of way-too-high heels. Both purchases, only they could get away with. I found nothing to expand my closet, but was captivated by a gold pedestal bowl that was probably meant as an ashtray.  The bowl overflowed with old photographs; yellowed and frozen in time.  A sign on the bowl simply read: “other people’s pictures 10 cents.”

I sifted through them, unable to curb my curiosity.  There were pictures of birthday parties and Christmas mornings,  the classic “generations” photo along with perfectly posed portraits.  I found fuzzy Polaroids of fish stories, and a fully focused picture of some lady sitting on the coach covered in pimple cream.   Once captured memories, my inquiring hands seemed to steal their meaning. 

What turns something once valuable into a ten-cent junk store find?  My gawking eyes that have no connection to the faces captured by a cameras click.  My sister paid $10 for turquoise skinny jeans, and I could not muster ten cents for a photo that had no meaning.

Value is such a strange phenomena.  When it comes to wares and goods, they are only worth as much as we will pay for them.  Art is almost always more valuable in the presence of death, while thousands of companies prey on the promise of extended life.  Music, founded on the freedom of expression, is daily pirated to reach those who cannot afford to download it. 

Value is even stranger in regards to human life. God has said that all lives are significant, that we can find their merit in Him.  At the same time, in the land of the living, we are all vulnerable to one another in finding our worth.  No matter the extent of our gifting; if no one will receive it, then it has no use.  No matter the depth of our wisdom; if no one will hear, it has no meaning.  No matter the strength of our spirit; if no one will lean upon us, it has no profit. 

Our humanity is tested every day.  Our lives bump against others, and we affect or infect their perceived worth.  Whether it is someone close to us, an acquaintance, or the checker at the grocery store, we add or subtract our ten cents to the lives around us.   We can ignore, put off, criticize and demean.  Or we can encourage, make time for, add to, and uplift.  We give humanity when we receive what other lives have to offer and push them to live to the fullest.  We steal it away when we disregard a life as insignificant to ours, when we count it unworthy of experiencing fullness.

In the days of Jesus, humanity was tested like no other time on Earth.  A man with the power to heal left His footprints in the dirt, and those who followed revealed either compassion or callousness.  Some prevented children from coming to Him, looked-on in disgust when He spoke to women, rebuked Him when He showed mercy to certain Races.  Others pleaded with Him on behalf of a child, tore off a rooftop and lowered towards Him an ailing friend, offered Him to the blind and rejected as the only thing they had to give. 

We now  reside in an era ruled by inhumanity.  Value and Worth find themselves turned upside down.  Quaint and pure remains nameless, while millions are spent to watch real lives exploited.  We gawk, we fondle, we forget they meant something to somebody once. 

Our hands possess great power today.  We can sift through the faces that pass us by, disconnect, and leave them to fade in the 10 cent bowl.  Or we can tear off the roof, and lower them down.