I  remember thinking as a child that material things were very important.  I'll never forget racing into the house when I was a young lad, very excited.  "You should've seen Mark's room," I shouted as I bolted through the door leaving muddy footprints on the carpet.
"So what Johnny?" Brian shrugged his shoulders. "Mom's going to pulverize you for tracking mud all over the place."
"I'll clean it up big brother," I said. "Anyway Mark has this far out twenty-five inch color television set with a VCR. He's got a telephone, a huge stereo system and all kinds of high tech games and a computer to do his homework on."
"Don't impress me none," Brian said, springing to his feet to turn off the twelve inch black and white T V set.
"It don't impress you any," I sputtered. "I'd give anything to have a room like his."
"You're not that dumb," Brian snapped. "You know Mom and Dad can't afford any of those things."
"How well I know," I said, plopping down in the old worn out red and green checked chair. "Mark's Dad must be rich."
"Rich is just a figure of speech," Brian said seriously. "People are rich in different ways."
"I don't know why I bother talking to you," I yelled. "You're either rich or you're poor."
"I'm sorry you don't understand what I'm trying to tell you." Brian said, grabbing his books and leaving the room. "You should listen to the sermons more at church instead of sleeping through them."
I ejected from my chair and turned on the T V set wishing it had color and a big screen like Marks did. I squinted my eyes trying to focus in on the small figures; people were dashing back and forth on the busy street.
"It's time to eat," Mom shouted from the kitchen. Her voice penetrating my thoughts.
"Dad, you should've seen Mark's room," I said. When Brian butted in not letting me finish.
"Would you pass the bread Mom?" Brian asked in his super polite way. He always had to be so unnatural perfect.
"Dad," I said, trying again to tell about Mark's room when Brian rudely interrupted me.
"Are we still going to the fishing hole tomorrow Dad?" Brian asked. "I always enjoy going even though we never catch anything."
"Sure," Dad answered. Seeming to be pleased Brian wanted to go to that briar covered, muddy, stinking fishing hole. About the only thing in that pond were carp, suckers and just old trash fish. It might've had one bass swimming in it but I doubt it.
What's the use I thought sitting with my head almost in my plate gulping down my food. Brian's not going to let me get a word in edgewise.
"You shouldn't eat so fast Johnny," Mom said as I pushed my chair away from the table. "You'll get indigestion."
"Johnny," Dad said. "Mom needs bread for breakfast in the morning. Would you mind running down to Mr. Murphy's market and picking up a loaf?"
"No, I don't mind," I muttered, thinking it wouldn't hurt Brian to run an errand once in awhile.
The market was crowded. It was Saturday and payday for everyone who worked at the mill. They were all gathered in a tight group like a bunch of peas crammed into an over stuffed pod waiting for Mr. Murphy to cash their checks. One man stood off by himself propped up against the wall. He was much younger than the ones cluttered in the group.
"What's your name?" He asked, his dark blue eyes looking straight at me. "I'm Rob Pruitt and I'm new in town."
"That's nice," I said, feeling ridiculous. My mind just wouldn't register anything else to say. "I'm Johnny Quillen it's good to meet you."
"I live in the one room apartment over this market," Mr. Pruitt said. "It's small but how much room does one man need?"
"Does it have a T V?" I asked. "There's a great concert coming on tomorrow night and I can't wait to see it."
"No," Mr. Pruitt answered. "I don't really mind though. There are so many other things to enjoy like watching these men cashing their checks. They've worked hard all week and it really means something to them. That's true life son and TV is mostly fiction."
"You should see my friends room," I gloated; glad I was finally getting to express my feelings about Mark's room. "It's filled with all these modern contraptions. Any kid would give his eye teeth to have a room like that."
"I use to own all that and more," Mr. Pruitt's smiled. "It didn't make me happy, though. My father gave me a desk job at the company he owns. I decided I wanted to be a minister and I enjoy working with these people."
"Wow!" I said, "You had to be nuts to give all that up," I exclaimed. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have made that statement," I said in the next breath. "I didn't mean you shouldn't want to be a minister."
"I'm not nuts," he assured me smiling as he spoke. "Do you know anyone that doesn't have all these elaborate things you just described? People who only have the bare essentials yet they're happy."
Mom, Dad and Brian, I thought, hanging my head feeling ashamed. That's why Brian kept interrupting me at supper. He didn't want me to tell about Mark's room. He knew Mom and Dad gave us all they could afford. While I sat there acting dumb and not once thinking about their feelings.
"I think I can see what you're saying Mr. Pruitt," I smiled and reached out to shake the hand of this stranger who had put a new perspective on what was really important in our lives.
That day I learn the difference in having a family that loved me and that material things weren't that important at all. It's a lesson that has stayed with me all these years. I often think about how wise that young minister was that I met at Murphy's Market years ago.

Copyright © 1998  Jo Ann Lovelace. All Rights Reserved.