I'm writing this post on my sister's bed in her room, which is full of basketball trophies and picture frames (not to mention a winky-faced Wiz Khalifa poster). There is a roof over my head. Her TV is on mute in the background. I'm warm enough to be wearing a tank top and pajama shorts. I'm wealthy enough to own a nice computer, complete with WiFi. I am one of many fortunate individuals in America who does not have to worry about finding somewhere decently comfortable to sleep tonight.
How easy it is to take that for granted.
Two weeks ago, my boss approached my desk with a name and phone number scribbled on a piece of white copy paper.
"Do you want to sleep in a cardboard box for a good cause?" he asked.
"Sleep in a what?"
"A cardboard box."
"Oh. Ummm, when?"
"November 16. You want to? I think it'd be a meaningful experience."
I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and checked my calendar. I didn't have any plans. Nope. Nothing.
"I'll make the phone call," I said, taking that white piece of paper out of his hands and into my own.
So here I am, one day away from getting my first "hands-on" experience when it comes to homelessness, which is a rather foreign subject to me. Tomorrow night at this time I'll be sitting in a cardboard box in a church parking lot amongst other volunteers trying to raise awareness about the pain and suffering that many poverty-stricken people endure night after night.
I convinced my cousin Krysta and my sister Chelsey to join me, so it will be nice to have cardboard box neighbors. But I'm not saying that to be funny; I'm saying that because I'm quite proud that I've convinced them to join me. I think it will be an eye-opening experience for all of us. Admittedly, one reason I'm participating is because I think it will give me good writing material and this valuable sense of enlightenment. It's not everyday that someone sleeps in a cardboard box for a good cause, right?
It's bound to be cold. But hopefully not rainy. Truthfully, it may be a little boring, as we're not allowed to bring iPhones, iPads, iPods . . . and we're certainly not allowed to order take-out. Hmmm.
So here's what I have packed so far:
From left to right: my navy blue sleeping bag, a very soft Angry Birds blanket, a pillow, a pair of gloves, a pair of socks, comfy pajama pants, a semi-colorful hat, and a black sleeping bag. I am missing a few items, including a sweatshirt and my netbook. Oh wait, no computers allowed.
I must mention that I am packing with my sister in mind, and that explains the double sleeping bags. But don't get me wrong--doubling up on sleeping bags (one sleeping bag inside of another sleeping bag sounds brilliant, doesn't it?) could be a great idea. Alas, I have no intentions of feeling as though I'm stuck in some kind of cotton cocoon all night.
I'm done packing for now. Perhaps I'll resume in the morning. Regardless, I'm determined not to get all bundled up like Randy from A Christmas Story.
I know my mom is worried that we're all going to get sick, but I feel prepared to complete this challenge tomorrow night. I'm just grateful that I don't have to complete this challenge every night.
I've encountered homeless people dozens of times, most notably in Newark, New Jersey, and Boston, Massachusetts. I remember seeing people sleeping on park benches and on church steps and wondering how awful it must be to not be able to look forward to bedtime.
I've slept in a twin-sized bed all my life, and I know no different. I've lived in a nice house all my life, and I know no different. I've always had an abundance of outfits and possessions and food, and I know no different.
Tomorrow, I want to know different.
As you turn off your bedroom light tonight and give your weary bones to your bed--twin-sized or otherwise--please keep in your thoughts and in your prayers the people who have no bedroom lights of their own. There are a lot of them out there, especially after Hurricane Sandy caused some major down and out situations last month.
Wish us luck tomorrow, and stay tuned for Homelessness: Part II. And possibly Part III and Part IV . . .
Fiction, poetry, and all that good stuff . . .