Do you have a junk drawer in your house? Or perhaps an old shoe box stuffed in the top of the closet. If you do you are like most people, I believe, in this country. Most people that are not intent on being “organized.”
Those spaces often end up becoming the place we hide things away until we need them. A place where we know we will remember them being placed in a safe hideaway. A place we will not forget about them until that time we need them. Trouble is, if you are like most people, those hidden spaces become places where we accumulate those things we tend to forget over time. A shiny bolt that you found lying in your driveway; you may not know where it came from so you place it in the junk drawer. That way you will know where it is when we find the piece of equipment if fell from.
The junk drawer is a place where we put paper clips from those old stacks of papers on your desk or a handful of colorful rubber bands-you know, the ones your newspaper delivery person took time to wrap around your paper to keep it neat and clean. The drawer also contains old used pencils that the erasers have dried up and smears the paper when we try to erase what we have written. Ink pens that are low on ink and skip when you use it to write the grocery list. I guess we hope someday the eraser will soften with age and the ink pen will regenerate a supply of ink.
Marbles, toy soldiers, packs of matches, and an assortment of nails and screws that we have no idea where we collected are just some of the items we find. Junk drawers are places we accumulate stuff with the idea of some day using what we place there. It is also a place we intend to clean out when we have time. But, that day or time often does not come along.
What happens with junk drawers? Well, they become, in a sense, time capsules of our lives. Time capsules that sometimes end up being discovered when we are no longer around to clean that drawer of forgotten items.
A couple of times a year my wife and I travel to Amish country. Along the way we sometimes stop at flea markets or yard sales. On a rickety old table among a collection of musty books and stained jelly jars were the contents of someone junk drawer. Normal things you would expect to see in someone’s junk drawer. I remember seeing a collect of keys. Nothing special, just a collect of keys. Some looked to be for pad locks, others to be for doors. I looked around the box until I found an old Skeleton key. It was of no real value, just another forgotten key from someone’s life.
That key got me thinking about the keys in my life. My first key most likely was to my house growing up. I was given a key when I started finding my way in the world. A key that I could use when I came and went on my own. A key that began to give me an understanding of responsibility.
Probably my next key was to my locker in school-a place where away from home I could keep my books and coat in cold weather. A key to a place where I was responsible for the books I used to get an education. Now I had two keys: one for my home and one for a place of security in the outside world.
The next key in my life was very important. It was for my motorcycle. And with a motorcycle to get from home to town I could get a job to earn money. With the job came a key and more responsibility. As I grew into a young man I found each step I took toward being an adult came with a key.
When I entered the Air Force and was assigned to a duty station, that new world came with keys. Not only did I have keys to the office, but now I had keys to areas that held dangerous materials. Keys that meant I had responsibility for not only my security, but for others’ safety.
As I grew older, got married and had a family, keys came with each new step in my life. As I grew in responsibility, I accumulated keys along the way. But keys that I had accumulated along the way often became unused and forgotten and placed in the junk drawer beside the sink in our kitchen.
Over the many years of a working career came changes, new keys and discarded old keys. The drawer beside the sink slowly collected the unused keys I carried in my pocket until I cleaned them out. Keys that over time I forgot what they were for or they no longer were used.
After a lifetime of working and responsibility, it seemed that all that was left were the forgotten keys. I had not thought of the keys and the role they have played in my life until I saw those in the bottom of the old junk box from someone else’s life.
A key is a simple thing. It unlocks the world around us to give access. Access to our home. Access to a Job. Access to our family. When you think about keys they are pretty important to us. But, it seems not important enough when we no longer need them and we discarded them in a hidden place with things we think of as junk.
Keys were first used to lock things of value over 4,000 years ago. Egyptian Pharaohs used keys to unlock wooden locks. We have come a long way since those first keys were used to protect ancient treasures. But today, as thousands of years ago, keys are important in each of our lives and as we grow we each find our way with a simple key. Those forgotten keys in the junk drawer at one time unlocked the way to someone’s world. Remember the next time you twist a key; you may be looking toward the future Through the Lens.