From the publisher | December 10, 2021

Outside the box


I’ve been sorting through lots of boxes.

It began in the summertime helping my sister deal with family stuff stored in her basement long after our parents had died. She and her husband are missionaries overseas, so there had been few opportunities to process photos, letters, furniture, and other memorabilia.

Years in a North Carolina basement had not been kind to the cardboard boxes and their contents. But after a week of hot work and multiple trips to the recycling center, the donation center, and the dump, finally everything was clean, organized, and slimmed down.

That inspired me to tackle my own basement, where I’m making headway even though the end is not yet in sight.

Now it’s time for the same process at work, where there’s a major rearrangement of offices taking place. I’m trying hard to keep from moving anything that should instead be recycled, pitched, or sent to the archives. It’s a good end-of-year activity.

Why do I find all this organizing so satisfying? I think it’s the pandemic. With little control over anything right now, it feels good to establish order, one box at a time.

Some of the things I’ve been able to shed were easy because they had gotten outdated and no longer mattered. The one that made me chuckle was a thick folder marked, in a coworker’s handwriting, “Rainy day project.” I don’t know how it traveled years ago from her office to mine, but the contents had aged enough be thrown away guilt-free, rain or shine.

As I look at the world around me, I sense that there’s a lot of sorting and evaluating going on. As we go about church—and life—we are trying to figure out what to keep and what to let go of. The process was already on its way, to be honest, but the pandemic has moved it into warp speed.

While sorting through my office, I’ve found a few artifacts that I plan to keep. So far the collection includes a pica ruler, printer’s lupe, T-square, floppy disk, 3.5-inch diskette, and Rolodex—all tools of an earlier era. They remind me of the ways we used to write, edit, design, and publish. I don’t need them anymore, but they show me that methods change all the time. Even while the message survives.

Wendy McFadden is publisher of Brethren Press and Communications for the Church of the Brethren.