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a shining example
Editorial By Susan O'Connor, illustration by Brittney Guest

Lifestyle is a choice. Often, it is unconscious. We make a series of decisions every day and our priorities unfold, becoming more and more apparent.
This may not sound monumental, but it is! Life is short, and our time on earth is precious. Popular songs deal with the notion of “living like you are dying” or “if today was your last day.”

Recently, I spent the weekend with my brother, the Rev. Dr. J. Russell Snapp in Little Rock. A Harvard PhD, he was professor of history at Davidson College in Davidson, N.C., before making the decision to attend Episcopal seminary in 2001. His faith, and the sharing of his faith, was and continues to be top priority. God called, and Russ followed. I admire him very much.

But, there is more. The way he lives — his very lifestyle — is quite contrary to most Americans. Most of us, me included, surround ourselves with stuff. Our houses are full to the brim. We are never satisfied, seemingly. Our attachment to things is mighty. This came into sharp focus for me recently as I moved and spent a great deal of time discarding many things that don’t matter.

Russ chose to rent the top floor of a historic home that sits just steps away from Trinity Cathedral, where he is serving as priest. His home is charming, but fairly empty of the unnecessary. A few good rugs on original wood floors, little furniture or clutter, not many clothes. It made me think about what we really need materially to be happy, which is very little.

I was comfortable in his new home, and found great peace in the quiet, low-key surroundings. I found myself curled up in his big, comfortable, slightly worn red chair with a cushy ottoman and a view of the cathedral, and prayer was on my mind. No television, just reading and reflecting. It was so nice.

There is something to be said for downsizing and simplification, instead of an obsession with the next material acquisition. Perhaps with less attachment to the things of this world, our minds would be less cluttered, our priorities realigned with others in mind and our wallets fatter.

My brother’s frugal choices have also afforded him a huge benefit over the years: travel. He jaunts to Europe, and sometimes the Caribbean, meeting friends and enjoying life thoroughly. We share a love of travel, and I’ve sincerely decided that if I stop buying shoes — and I truly have enough shoes for about 10 years — more travel will be in my future.

Maybe that is what older brothers are for — to be role models for younger siblings, even when we are grown. I have always looked up to Russ. He is still a shining example for me.