A Prepared Heart
Last week, I explained how Jon and I ended up hosting a homeless family in our home. Today, I am going to explain the "why" behind our decision making.
I know that hosting a homeless family for eight months because I saw a Facebook post may appear impulsive, but in actuality, I feel like God had been preparing me to say "yes" to that post for years beforehand. When I spend time reflecting on our decision to host the family, I realize that the reason for hosting this family was all due to a book.
In the summer of 2012, I became a stay-at-home mom. I was delighted to spend more time with my 13-month-old son - but also found myself with two to three hours every afternoon with nothing to do while my son slept. I am not a huge TV watcher (at least I don’t enjoy watching it during the day) and because my son was only 13 months and not yet a huge mess-maker (boy did that change!!) - my house was usually pretty clean. So during his naps, with nothing else to do, I began to read. The first book I read was 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. It changed my life.
The premise of the book was that the author worked through seven areas of her life where she identified there to be excess. The seven areas were: food, clothes, spending, media, possessions, waste, and stress. As I read the chapters on food and clothes, I realized how little I thought about the global impact of my purchasing decisions. This was especially true for clothes and decor items (my throw pillows, duvet cover, wooden serving tray, etc.). The sad truth is that many people are treated poorly and are working in terrible conditions to provide cheap goods for the western world. Our society, at least in 2012, demanded fast fashion and at an "affordable" price. And we needed our products to be at an "affordable" (read: cheap) price because we purchased so much. These demands had an impact on those working in factories to produce our goods - and the impact was not positive. I was convicted as I researched more on the textile, fashion, cacao, and coffee industries that if I said I wanted people to be treated fairly, but continued to purchase from companies that knowingly mistreat their employees, then I was a hypocrite.
Two other books were also impacting me around the time I read 7. Those books were Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and Eric Metaxas’ Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery. After reading those books, I made two resolutions: I wouldn’t buy any sort of clothing, shoes, accessories for myself for a year. This first resolution was a twofer: we would save money a 'la Ramsey, and I could spend that year finding out what I really wore and needed and also research companies who produce fair trade goods. I think it is also important to note that my purchasing fast actually lasted 18 months. I gave away BAGS and BAGS of clothes and still had more than enough. It took 18 months of zero clothing purchases for my clothes to actually begin to wear out. My second resolution was when I did start purchasing clothes again - I would only buy fair trade (I need to note that even though this was my resolution, I am not perfect at it, but "progress, not perfection" is my motto with all resolutions that I make).
Dave Ramsey’s influence on my resolutions may be pretty obvious - Jon and I were on Baby Step Three (build up 3-6 months worth of emergency savings), and my decision to not purchase clothes would undoubtedly impact our budget for the better. Eric Metaxas’ impact through Amazing Grace may be a little less obvious - but essentially this book (and movie) made me realize the full extent of my hypocrisy.
All my life I have talked about the horrors of slavery. I dreamed that if I had lived in the days of the slave trade - I would have been one of those to give up sugar because it was processed by the hands of slaves. I even dreamed that maybe I too would have been a part of the underground railroad. I had the same illusions about myself concerning the Holocaust. I hoped that if I lived in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s - that I would have been one of those who helped hide the Jews or rescued children from the camps. But the truth is - there is plenty of that happening in our world today. There is still a slave trade, and people are still being oppressed. And, at least six years ago, I was doing nothing about it. From that realization, the logic followed effortlessly: if I wasn’t doing anything to stop the injustices in the world I lived in today - I doubt I would have been one to do anything about the injustices 100 years ago.
I faced the truth about myself: I say I am against injustice - but I do nothing about it - therefore, my actions were not aligned with my words. I was a hypocrite. So I sought to change that. I dove into literature about current world problems and worked to change my actions based on what I learned. William Wilberforce's words became my battle cry: "You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know." And based on what I learned in my research, I made these five declarations:
1.) Purchase, as it is within my power, fair trade clothing (this was really hard to do in 2012 but really easy to do now).
2.) Purchase clothing out of need, not out of want.
3.) Purchase, as it is within my power, fair trade ingredients.
4.) Boycott Nestle (and this monster just keeps growing).
5.) Be hospitable - open the door to my heart and home and learn to love people within my realm of influence well.
It was the above changes that slowly prepared my heart to take strangers into my home. The changes may look small - but those changes taught me how to put others before myself, to think of how my actions impact others on a global level, and how I could actually positively impact our world. I want to know that when push comes to shove, I am willing to sacrifice my comfort for the betterment of society. I don't want to just talk about injustices, I want to do something. I don’t want to be the character in the story who stood by and did nothing (all while probably saying a lot), I want to be the character that actually opened my door and cared. Or more simply put, I want to live out Gandhi's words, "live simply so others may simply live."
So when I read that Facebook post asking if anyone had a basement that a homeless family of four could spend the night in. My heart (and my husband’s) heart was ready. Our answer to that post was an intentional answer: “yes, you can stay here."
To read about the Facebook post that started it all, click here.
Also, stay tuned for more in this series:
Part 2: A Prepared Heart: why we began hosting a homeless family in our home
Part 5: Financial Impact: diving into the financial impact of helping a homeless family
Part 6: Resources: what resources are available to the homeless community and are they helpful?
Part 7: The Best and Hardest Stuff: I dive into the best and hardest parts of living with this family
Part 8: Supporting Others: Do you know someone who works in social services are spends time with those in crisis? Here is what you can do to support them.
Part 9: Diving In: What you can do to help the homeless community today (hint: you don't have to have them live with you, but it is going to take your time).