I have never before experienced homelessness, and to be very honest hope that I never will have to. But last night we got at taste, just a taste of what over 600,000 people face on given night in America. Even with our fire barrel and 2 small fire pits, a soup kitchen (out in the elements), card board boxes, sleeping bags/ blankets, and our pillows, we still had a very hard night. Mark and I shared a box of course that was constructed simply out of boxes and duct tape. (But stop and think about this MOST homeless people would be lucky to find warm/dry boxes to sleep in, let alone have the duct tape to create a shelter with those boxes). We had 1 sleeping bag, and 3 other blankets, plus our own body heat. Despite this there were many times we were cold, or uncomfortable. We even had tarps to put under/ and on top of our boxes. What a luxury right!? Well for many in our country it is!
Our evening started around 6pm. Once all boxes were done being created, we made our way outside to discuss the expectations of the night and to begin our evening as homeless people. Their were activities and discussions that guided the evening, and some lovely ladies who brought us soup. The night ended with the gift of hot chocolate in the shelter of the church. ( A blessing so many do not get on a daily or even weekly basis...A warm drink in a warm place). Everyone was to be in their boxes by midnight.
I must admit I was nervous about the evening. I easily get cold, and didn't know how I would handle hours of being outside! However, I did quite well. That is until by boots got wet. By the time I departed to my box my jeans were soaked, along with my boots, and the 3 pairs of socks I had on. Luckily, Mark had an extra pair I could wear to sleep in. I was very thankful for when Mark finally joined me in the box. I could not wait for the body heat. However, it was almost impossible to get fully comfortable sleeping out in a parking lot. We tossed and turned and although we thought we built a good structure we were soon proven wrong. Due to the heavy wet snow falling our box began to collapse and leak. Talk about being claustrophobic. By 5:30am the tarps blew off, and the tape was separating from the box. Mark was already out talking with some people who were up. I called him over, and asked for help to fix the box. But in his mind the box was a lost cause. He suggested I just get up and join the ever growing group by the fire. As I soon came to realize, almost ALL the boxes had collapsed during the night forcing people out of their boxes, and most did not sleep much at all. We were amazed with the few that did. Considering 2 of them were our younger middle schoolers who had their own boxes. No extra body heat for them. They slept great :). AMAZING!
So I put on my wet boots, and only having my leggings and PJ pants for leg warmth headed inside for a little while. This was so Mark could have a chance to take my boots and warm them by the fire. What a wonderful husband. They were a little dryer when he returned them to me, but that didn't last long. I grabbed my coat, wrapped my fleece blanket and joined the group by the fire.
Finally, the collapsing and clean up process began. We had are final wrap up discussion around 7:30am in the shelter of the church. I have never been so happy to go home and take a nap in my own bed.
I have definitely been humbled by this experience. I shamefully admit I almost always look at homeless people with disgust and think " Stop being so lazy, get a job". But the reality is that many do not have ANY support from anyone! No guaranteed food or shelter, no job that would accept them the way they are. Even if they could land an interview, what would they wear? Where would they shower, and how would they get there?
Many are homeless due to financial situations out of their control, some from addictions, and others because their families have abandoned them. But truth be told they are no less valuable.God has made us all in His image. God has made us all valuable.What right do we have to look at someone who may be less fortunate and define them as less valuable? We need to care about them the way that God does. We need to love them the way that God calls us to. How often do we take that calling seriously?
I have a lot more appreciation for what homeless people face day in day in and day out. Yes I slept in a box, and it was HARD, but I got breakfast from Mcdonalds afterwards and went home to a warm safe house, and took a wonderful nap in my warm bed. I caught my break this morning, so many never get that break. They sleep in a box like I did, they toss and turn and freeze. But they start all over again the next day. Walking miles for food, begging at street corners, just hoping that maybe the next day will be better than the last. Just maybe someone will give them a meal, or a blanket. Maybe tonight they'll find a warm place to sleep. I NEVER have to wonder or worry about those things. I am so BLESSED. Sure maybe I took a nap in a bed, ate 2 meals so far today, showered, and put on warm clothes. Big deal...But wait...All those things are question marks for those who are homeless. When will they shower...eat...sleep...?
So the next time you see someone homeless think twice. Think about how YOU can be Christ to them. This event has challenged my heart, and my view of those who are homeless, and I hope reading this has challenged you!
**This is the box Team Worth slept it...Just in case you were wondering :)