This entry is part of a blog series, Time Capsules, in which I think about the places in our home where the blessings of our history are evident in stored artifacts. Today, I invite you to look with me at stories that might live inside the bins that hold years’ worth of tax returns.
From your refined upbringing, you’ll recall that there are two things one never talks about in polite company: Death and taxes. Today I will politely poke at that notion, inviting you into the closets where you and I store tax documents.
Every so often—when I’m paring down the contents of that closet to about ten years’ worth of documentation—I open up one of the bins, reflecting on what I find. Varied sets of memories abound—each year’s tax forms are a summary of what occurred during that time.
Each background document tells its own story—how our income assembled itself in amazing ways; how little money we spent on medical expenses; how my book sales waxed and waned; how our generosity found expression. A variety of fondly remembered people, enterprises and institutions wave from behind those stories.
Small swarms of prayers skitter out from the tax time capsules, mostly gratitude to God for safety, meaningful work, wisdom, love. Thanks for rescue from misjudgments or wrong-headed decisions. Prayers for past employers, colleagues, charities and tax-preparers. Gratefulness that we’ve lived this long, this well.
Larger thought patterns also come to mind: We have been blessed financially over the years—even when we didn’t have much income. The bins provide evidence about the legacy that we will pass on to our children. We remain grateful for the benefits that come from paying taxes—not just for ourselves, but for countless others in this nation and around the world. (This lesson was one part of the financial stewardship my father insisted that his children learn: Paying taxes is part of the privilege of living in this democracy—a spiritual matter for him, and for me as well.)
I hope your tax documents add to your politely grateful conversations!
Postscript: My mother was once given a handmade gift: A small covered wooden structure, whose floor held two upright metal tacks. When she asked the artisan what this was, he replied with characteristic wit: “It’s a tacks shelter.” We still have this artifact of her years in assisted living!