Michelle Martin

The empty box mystery

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Call it the mystery of the empty box. A whodunit that is repeated over and over and over again.

It starts with the sense of disappointment that comes when you put your hand in the box of ice cream bars in the freezer … and it comes back empty.

Or when the orange juice bottle has just drops left in the bottom, the bag of bread is down to the last heel slice or the potato chip bag has nothing but greasy crumbs.

I don’t know how many times I’ve told the kids that if they use the last bit of something (or, really, the last usable bit), they should dispose of the container. Then, if they really want more, they can even mention it to make sure it gets added to the shopping list.

Leaving the container in the pantry or the fridge doesn’t help. Neither does leaving a half-serving that no one is going to eat. At best, it’s annoying. But it also means we sometimes don’t restock as soon as we should because we’re tricked by the empty boxes on the shelves.

Since no one in the house will admit to being the gremlin who puts empty or near-empty packages back, I can’t really say for sure why they (and yes, I’m pretty sure there are multiple offenders here) do it.

Is it just a lack of awareness of what they’re doing? I mean, at least they’re putting the package away, right? Maybe I should be grateful for that.

Do they really not know where the trash can and recycling bin are? Is it related to the problems they seem to have changing the toilet paper roll? Or the difficulty at least some of my kids have with getting rid of clothes and toys they’ve clearly outgrown? If so, that’s a problem, because we really don’t have space to keep every granola bar box we go through.

Sometimes it’s time to move on. That’s an impulse a lot of people honor this time of year with New Year’s resolutions, promises we make to ourselves to eat better, exercise more or, more importantly, be more kind or pray more.

It’s time to take stock, and to restock, as we look at ways we can nurture both ourselves and those around us. What do you need to be a better person?  A better spouse? A better parent to your children or child to your parents? A better child of God? Those are the things we should be looking for.

Otherwise we’re just taking an empty box and putting it back on the shelf.



  • family life