Sunday, April 06, 2008

Paper Clips

A Time magazine article published in 1965 gave the results of 100,000 paper clips that were tracked in a study:
The findings: only one out of five was ever used to clip one piece of paper to another. Of the 80,000 others

19,413 were used as chips in card games,
15,842 were wrapped in tissue for use as typewriter-key cleaners,
14,163 were bent into grotesque shapes during telephone conversations,
7,212 held ladies' stockings in place,
5,434 picked particles of food from between teeth,
5,309 cleaned fingernails,
3,196 reamed out pipes,
2,431 tightened screws, and
7,000 plain disappeared.

You probably don't think a lot about paper clips. I didn't either until our pastor used them as an illustration for a sermon last week. He drove home the fact only 20% of paper clips even have a chance of fulfilling their purpose. In his mind, this was a sad thing, but I put a positive spin on it. Something invented over 100 years ago to hold papers or fabric together is now more likely to be used in a different way--as a replacement, or a stand-in, for many other products which makes it even more useful.

Moms are like paper clips. We've been around forever. We don't really have one purpose that supersedes all the others. After a child comes into our home, our purpose changes. We may have been a devoted wife, a powerful lawyer, an avid gardener, a meticulous housekeeper or a gourmet cook. Does becoming a mother wipe out those purposes? No, but it is more likely that we will be used in an unglamorous way such as cleaning out fingernails.

Does the poker chip paper clip lament that it's not holding together a stack of mortgage documents? I think not.

Moms have feelings. Paper clips don't.

But perhaps we can learn from them. Embrace the multi-faceted role to which we've been entrusted. Invent a few more roles to insure our adaptability over the years. We'll always be mothers, but our roles will definitely change over the years, and if we are only fixated on one part of our purpose as women, we'll be replaced.

The one thing about paper clips that really stood out from the study was how many of them got thrown away or lost. All week I've seen discarded paper clips everywhere--on the floor (keep watch, you'll see them in unlikely places too), in drawers, in the car. It's a reminder to me that a lot of people feel that way too.

Who can I pick up? Who can I restore to her proper use?

People do this for me all the time in reminding me who I am, what I'm here for, and most of all that I serve a God of second chances.


Beck said...

Jennifer, you are SO clever!
I don't think as many paperclips are used to clean pipes now, eh?

Katrina said...

Okay, first of all, the thought of picking food out of teeth with a paper clip made me cringe. And they didn't mention my 4th-grade tendency to unwind paper clips and pretend I had a retainer like everyone else in my class (horribly unsanitary and yucky, I know).

I like your thoughts about moms, though. I just read an article yesterday about a former classmate of mine who is "changing lives" in her career. For about a minute, I felt worthless, but then remembered that I, too, am changing lives -- most notably, my children's. And the impact I have there will last for generations. Pretty good for a Paper Clip Mom.

Dianne said...

I love your thoughts about picking up those who feel they've been discarded! And no comment re: Katrina's pretend retainers :)