All I Wanted Was a Toothbrush

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

While in my local drugstore recently, I was looking to buy a new toothbrush. Not as simple as it sounds!

The number of available options made my purchase a daunting, irritating task. There were, first of all, various brands, a factor that wasn’t important. But, did I want one of the new high-tech, electric toothbrushes, or an old-fashioned, simple manual toothbrush? And even there, lots of decisions to be made. There were adult and children toothbrushes, with normal handles and larger, easy-grip handles. There were toothbrushes with soft, medium and firm bristles; regular bristles and rounded bristles; and an “indicator” toothbrush that told you when to discard it. There was a selection of bright colors; a travel toothbrush or the domestic stay-at-home model; and multi-packs with two, three or eight brushes. And serving effectively as camouflage, a wall of distracting yellow sale stickers: “Buy one, get one half-price.”

Of course the plain old simple, single toothbrush I wanted was on the bottom rack, meaning I had to get on all fours to see it. “Beep, beep,” said the nice lady trying to maneuver her cart around me.

All I wanted was a toothbrush.

The pedestrian experience of being overwhelmed by toothbrushes illustrated that one of the challenges to successful, peaceful living today is that we are surrounded by too many options, too much clutter. One of the saddest programs on TV today is “Hoarders,” a reality show that documents the agonizing existence of folks who suffer a serious psychological malady that causes them to store things, irrationally, and sometimes to dangerous levels.

But in fact, many of us are “hoarders,” at least to some degree. We’ve got too much stuff – in our homes, our offices, our cars, our desks and closets. It’s stuff we’ve deliberately collected or casually accumulated along the way. “I’ll just put it there and toss it later,” or, “I can’t get rid of that, Mary gave it to me,” we rationalize. And all that junk causes us to be depressed and disorganized, cluttering our existence, and providing an obstacle to spiritual growth.

The imitation of Christ presumes a certain simplicity of life and a detachment from material things. Our excessive consumer culture doesn’t help us in that regard.

Something to think about: One commentator observed: “God doesn’t condemn his people having earthly possessions; but he does condemn when earthly possessions have us.”