Like runners awaiting the sound a starting pistol, shoppers are lining up in front of every Wal-Mart, Circuit City, and national chain department in hope of buying the latest stuff for the lowest price.

It’s race all right. But the gunfire in front of a Connecticut Wal-Mart store this month was no starter’s pistol. It was real gun fire – all in some misguided effort to obtain a Sony Play Station 3.

Yet, we’re undeterred by even bullets. And this Thanksgiving, the turkey won’t be the only thing stuffed. We’re stuffed – stuffed with all this stuff.

At least three major world religions teach that God created humanity to be stewards of the earth and then these same religions command us to “go forth and multiply.” Not any of these religions teach that God was talking about multiplying our stuff. That would indeed be some fuzzy math.

Yet each year we multiply our stuff exponentially. Our stuff has now formed a “footprint” in the ecological terms that has trampled our once Garden of Eden.
You may recall that last year at this time I returned from serving with the National Guard in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I saw how all of our stuff can become rubble in an instant as it encounters the force that made this world. I spoke of patrolling the streets of New Orleans as I encountered mountains of stuff that had been robbed, ruined and ransacked.

The experience put me in mind of the homeless man in whose name this season is celebrated — Christ Mass. You remember him, right? He’s the one who pointed out that while “foxes have holes,” but he had “no place to lay his head.”

He challenged us with the teaching not to “store up for yourself treasures on Earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Just like in New Orleans, the ultimate destination of stuff – the junk yard

So last year in the wake of Katrina, I tried to put these teachings to practice by declaring in this column that “Norris Burkes has enough stuff!” I don’t need any more stuff. Stuff has no value.”

I begged family and friends to “Make a donation to the Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, AidChild or the Heifer Project. Buy some warm blankets for the homeless. Send a donation overseas to the latest earthquake, flood or fire victim.”

Well, my family and friends listened.

My sister-in-law gave me a certificate that honored the donation she gave to the Red Cross in my name.

My mother-in-law gave me a hand written certificated that indicated the dollar amount she’d given to Katrina victims in my name.

And you know what I did when I opened these gifts?

I cried.

My wife and kids followed with similar donations. And I cried again. It was the truly the most amazing gift anyone has ever “bought” for me.

I discovered that real treasure isn’t what you buy; it’s what you give.

This year I want to help the families of deployed soldiers. If you’d like to help contact me by email at or at PO BOX 19522 Sacramento CA 95819-0522

Other charities mentioned in this column are:

Heifer Project – provides animals for families as a food source, rather than short-term relief.

Aidchild Provides homes, medical care, psychosocial support, and education to orphans living with AIDS

Doctors without Borders delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural or man-made disasters, or exclusion from health care in more than 70 countries.