Well, the first night didn’t go quite as planned, to say the least. Setup took a lot longer than I thought it would. In the fall there’s more to think about than in summer… For instance, one of the main obstacles to setting up a homeless camp is that it has to be hidden so you won’t get run off, or raided by someone who steals all your stuff. And in the fall and winter, there’s not the tree cover and undergrowth to keep you hidden, so you have to choose your spot more carefully and then camouflage as much as possible.
Another thing I figured out as the night progressed is that what you and I consider “mild weather” (in the mid- to low forties) is no fun when you’re sleeping in a tent on the ground with no heat source. And with me being in my 50s and suffering from a lot of back pain because I abused my body so much when I was younger, getting in and out of the tent without crying or cursing or both is one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life. If I hadn’t brought a couple of walking sticks “just in case,” I would still be stuck in my tent.
I’ll never look at bad weather or middle-aged homeless people the same way again, I can promise you that.
Another thing I hadn’t really considered was what happens if you get sick. I don’t want to gross anyone out, but getting up and down with “stomach trouble” during the night when your bathroom is a five-gallon bucket under the stars (and when the temperature is in the forties) ain’t no joke. And that’s on top of getting in and out of the tent with a bad back. I think I got about three hours of sleep, but actually I had it easy. I have friends who’ve told me stories of having the flu for days when the temps were in the teens and they were sleeping in a car or under a building in a crawlspace. I now have connected the dots as to how horrific that really was for them.
Being out here reminds you of all the things we take for granted—not frivolous things, but basic—like running water, a working toilet, heat, food to eat, and a way to prepare the food once you get it… and just a safe place to lay your head at night to rest.
The night wasn’t all bad, though. I got a lot of reading done, wrote a blog, and did a lot of praying. Mind you, there was a lot of “Oh, God, make this pain go away” and “Lord, tell me again why I am doing this,” and “Can I please go home?”—but it wasn’t all complaints. But He then reminded me of all my friends who really don’t have a home to go to. They have no other option but to suck it up and pray through.
So I’ll leave you with a quote from a friend of mine: tonight, when you’re warm and toasty and snuggling in your bed at home, “don’t forget to remember.”