As some of you know, I made a decision last spring to give up my apartment and begin house/kitty sitting to minimize my expenses while I grow my speaking/writing/acting career. My career was growing(I’m a paid actor after all!)…just not fast enough to cover all my expenses, including the debt from my business school experience. My part-time job was helping, but still not enough. And darn it, if I’m going to be working pretty much until the day I pass (Ex-nun, left-over hippies often didn’t think of planning for retirement!) it’s going to be doing what I feel called to do, what makes me feel most alive!
At the time of my decision, I did not realize that I was choosing to be, in effect, “homeless” for a while. I’m a volunteer for Street Sense, the street newspaper, written and sold by folks who are trying to pull themselves out of homelessness through entrepreneurship. I’ve read and heard some of their stories, and I realize that my experience of homelessness is the very “cushiest” version. I do have a permanent address, as housemate with a friend from my previous building, though I live “out” at my house sitting assignments. And I was blessed to keep my storage units in the building, which allowed me to keep certain items I hope to use again, as well as my props for the Bessie performances, and the stock of my children’s book.
But I have packed up my bags and moved nearly a dozen times during these past six months. And a week ago, I realized that I did not know where I was going to live after this last gig, ending on October 18. I began to feel some anxiety as I posted all my notices about my house/kitty sitting service. Suddenly it hit me…this is a pretty stressful way to live!
Each time I have to pick up my stuff and move on, I experience a sort of disorientation, a disruption in the flow of my life. It shows up in the every day things. It’s harder to begin my work again. Did I remember to pay that parking ticket? Where is my mail folder of papers I need to attend to? Where did I put that bath soap? Did I remember to take my jacket out of storage?
Then I began to think about those brave folks I meet at Street Sense. They, and the rest of our homeless population, (close to 7,000 in DC alone) face this disorientation every day, along with such basic concerns as where will I eat, where will I shower and use the bathroom? How can I get cleaned up for work? How will I feed my kids? What do I do if I get sick?
If my relatively safe and easy “homelessness” can be a source of stress for me, how much more so is it for them? What does it take just to wake up and face another day? How in the world do they do it? And what would happen if everyone who is blessed with the basics of food, clothing and shelter decided that they had to do something about this?
I know it can be disconcerting to be approached on the street by someone asking for money. And it’s very easy to lump everyone together, and dismiss them with the thought, “How do I know they’re not just going to go buy drugs or booze?” Or to think “this problem is so big; what in the world can I do?”
But now that I’ve experienced just this tiny glimpse of how being homeless disrupts the very foundation of what’s needed to live productive, happy lives, I feel the need to encourage those of us who are blessed with the basics to ask, What can I do?
Here are two suggestions: 1) What ever is your version of prayer or affirmation, take a moment to acknowledge that we are all children of the Universe, and hold a thought of blessing for our homeless brothers and sisters. 2) Look for the Street Sense Vendors in your neighborhood and buy the paper when it comes out every two weeks. You’ll read stories you won’t find anywhere else, including first hand accounts of life on the street, both in prose and poetry. And you’ll be helping to support the vendors, who are a part of the Street Sense community and follow a code of ethics in their dealings. You will be glad you did!
Meanwhile, I’m going to try to get a little better organized so it’s a bit easier to pack up and get ready for my next move!
Much love and many blessings,