I love my bed. I went out to the golf course last night to clean up after the annual fundraising tournament I've been helping with for eight years. It's gorgeous, peaceful, not too difficult, and the chamber of commerce staff really appreciate fresh energy at the end of a long day. The kids were teens when we started, and it was easy to gather a carload of them to go out and drive golf carts around for two hours -- they loved it. Simone and I were the last survivors last night, so I figure this was our last year of the project. My body isn't up to that sort of work anymore.
It's not unusual for me to crawl into bed with aches and pains from head to toe. I'm pretty good at ignoring them while I'm up and active, but lying down gives them permission to cry out. Arthritis can be very inconvenient -- I suggest you avoid it. But my bed is all the therapy I need. It's firm and big, with clean-but-not-too-crisp linens, a variety of blankets and comforters for any temperature, six king-size pillows, and of course, my awesome husband on the other side. It's 17 years old now, and still in good shape, except for the body dents on either side and the hump in the middle.
Coming home to my bed, being snug and warm, well supported, surrounded by my family and pets and all manner of stuff collected over the years, my mind always goes to those without a bed. To those who count themselves lucky to get a cot in a school gym or church hall on a cold night. Those who lie on the ground with a little limp, damp cardboard between themselves and the concrete. Those with disabilities and children or a dog who provides comfort but also requires care. The people on the street feed their children and their dogs before themselves without a second thought. Dogs like the peanut butter & jelly sandwiches we hand out in the camps, and their owners are too proud or ashamed or embarrassed to ask for an extra one.
I saw a terrific project a group of women have been doing with those awful plastic grocery bags you can't recycle and don't know what to do with. You can't in good conscience throw them away, but when you have a box of hundreds, what do you do? We use them for litter box debris and sending odds & ends home with people, but that doesn't keep them out of the landfills in the long run. So these women cut them in strips, tie them together, and crochet them into sleeping mats for the homeless. I love this! I don't have enough bags for more than half a mat, but I'm starting. Send me your bags! If you're able to cut them into four vertical strips, that helps, but I'll take them either way. This is something we can do for the people we're wary of feeding -- the drug addicts, the people standing on corners begging, the mentally ill folks who need care more than handouts but whom we don't want to feed because the neighborhood fears their return.
The rest of the downtrodden, we feed gladly, grateful for the generous donations that allow us to do so. We know we're just a disability check or two away from their fate, and we hate to think about it. We believe there's a god or karma or some force of good that will help us hang on to our fragile security if we're doing whatever we can for the ones who have none, like the woman in the link I've included below. A writer, and educated woman who worked hard to provide for herself, someone who depends now on the social security she paid into all her working years, who never dreamed she'd be spending her retirement living in her car, sharing her peanut butter sandwich with her only companion, her dog. There are thousands like her, invisible in our bustling indifference, bearing the labels we attach to all homeless people -- lazy, sick, drugged up, drunk, beggars. They are none of those things, and the hope and courage and optimism that once lifted their hearts are distant memories.
Please send me your bags, and drop off a jar of peanut butter or donate a dollar so these people can be acknowledged as humans, not vermin we have to chase away from our precious property, but honest, caring, hurting people, just like us. A meal and a sleeping mat can help a heart hang on. And maybe, with the grace of God, circumstances will change.
Susie Snortum is passionate about improving society's compassion for meeting basic human needs -- food, shelter, clean water, and dignity.