I write this as I sit on the floor next to my bed. The bed that I am not sleeping in all this week for my community’s Simple Living Challenge. Each week, one of the 16 community members chooses a challenge for everyone to attempt for the next week. Each challenge is focused around simple living, and therefore we have struggled through weeks of 5-minute showers, no dishwashers, no food waste, redefining pieces of recycling, and other odd challenges that invite us to take a further look at how we live…but this week, we were brought to a whole new level. We were challenged to live in solidarity with those who do not have a bed to sleep in. This means find a spot on the floor and call it home. We didn’t go as extreme as to say no pillows, or sleeping outside. Yet the issues and stresses that revolve around the lack of privacy, comfort, and security around where you will sleep at night is magnified all the more when there are 16 people living together doing this challenge. Don’t get me wrong, I am not writing this post to gain the attention of people to praise me, nor to complain about how uncomfortable it is to sleep on the floor – especially when I know my bed is just inches away. On the contrary, this week has been one of much learning for me. I have grown immensely in my gratitude for the things that I take for granted each day. To look longingly at my bed at night, knowing that I am doing this as a week-long challenge, made me take pause at the reality that so many face each night.
Even one of my youth that I directly work with does not have a bed at home to call his own. He sleeps on a couch so that his female family members do not have to. Many of our youth at Mercy Home find themselves with a bed for the first time. This challenge has put my heart even closer to the people that I interact with daily who are forced – not invited – to live life like this. And to think that I have trouble with doing the challenge for a week!
The challenge has also invited me to see the everyday graces even more. There have been countless times since moving to Chicago and working with these remarkable youth that I have realized how blessed I am. Yet it is easy to get into the swing of going to work, putting in my time, being there for my guys, and then going home to the comforts of my life outside of Mercy. So every now and then, it’s refreshing to have a wake-up call like this. The challenge has served as a huge blast of reality hitting me that I expect will linger long after my body can rest in a bed again.
It has called me to question so much about three specific areas:
– realizing the countless ways I have been blessed
– acknowledging how much I unintentionally take these things for granted
– discerning how best to cut out some of the luxuries/share with those in need
As is expected, I obviously don’t have full answers or details about these areas of thought that have been ignited in me this week, but I do have a few thoughts in regards to them. As per usual, they’re spotty, mildly random, and so I will share them in the same way. Here goes.
1) In thinking about the ways I have been blessed, it’s good to realize that I shouldn’t feel guilty. However, because I have been given great things, it gives others the right to expect great things out of me. I find this to be a compelling challenge and invitation in life. I believe it gives me the ability to recognize the countless “little things” that I am blessed to be a part of or have in my life.
2) I believe that many of these blessings, if not all, are pretty damn undeserved. And they’re random. I was blessed to be born into a family that can pay for our way of life. When I came home from school with a permission slip for a field trip that had an associated fee, I didn’t think twice in handing it over to my Mom. I knew she would sign it in her beautiful, loopy script, (not to mention I knew she could literally read the words and had the ability to understand it) and that there would be a check made out to my school and leave it for me to take back to school the next day. I was able to apply for college with the understanding that it was financially possible for me to go there. I was able to live my entire childhood without once knowing how much money my parents made in their jobs, or about how much groceries were going to cost us this week (and what we would have to do without in order to get through.) These “simple” things are struggles that so many families face each day – and this directly affects kids. This means that it easily could have been me. The stars align and kids are born into families – we have no control. I heard it put beautifully when someone said (in regards to giving a homeless man money who had lost his job), “That could be me. In the same way that he could be where I am, I could be where he is.” I did not do ONE thing that made me deserving of the blessings that I take for granted each day. This leads me to my next point.
3) I don’t want to take things for granted anymore. Woah, dream big, I know. This is obviously not completely possible, of course. But as I have written about before, “What if you were to wake up tomorrow with only the things that you thanked God for yesterday?” is one of the scariest questions. Before this week, I probably would never have thought to thank God for a mattress that I don’t have to share with anyone else. I probably would have forgotten to thank God for the fact that when I want to be warm, I put on another layer of clothes from a myriad of choices in my closet, in a room that is mine. On that note, I wouldn’t have thanked God for the expectation of privacy that I so luckily have. All of these things are like chain mail thank yous, because they never end. One thing leads to another, and by the time you’re done, your computer (or brain) has crashed. All I can say is, my thank you list would never end.
I think that I’ve probably overwhelmed you if you’ve actually gotten to this point, so I’ll stop when I’m already behind and just be grateful that you’ve made it this far. Thank you for reading – I hope this fired something inside you tonight….Let me know if it did.
I’ll leave you with this, a beautiful verse from a hymn at church last week: “In the quiet of the evening, at the close of the day, We will rest in our journey, to The Lord we will pray. May we thank God for blessings, for the moments we shared, as we seek for tomorrow, our God will be there.”