I was sitting in my car, preparing to turn into the parking lot of a grocery store when I felt it; and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stop it. There was a pain in my chest and I felt warmth creep across my face and my eyes began to sting. My vision started to blur as I felt tears well up in my eyes and spill onto my face. And I could feel the knot of a sob creep up through my chest as I turned into the parking lot. I quickly parked my car and sat there, sobbing uncontrollably. It fucking sucked.
In December the KarmaBadgers decided we should put together kits for people experiencing homelessness as we entered the winter here in Austin. We got got together to build kits in January and divided them up to give away.
I often joke about how my problems are “1%’er” problems. When I complain about my wi-fi being down, not having time to re-grout my shower or having to worry about the right time to leave my house for my job.
Let’s be clear, for my age group, I would need to earn $327,000 annually to qualify as a 1%er … so, no, I am not actually a member of the 1% club. But I gues my point is, I am also cognizant of the fact that I have a good life.
This week I was driving from the Apple store, where I was picking up my laptop, and heading to Central Market to pick up some groceries. I suppose it also should be noted that I was driving a car I just purchased, new from the dealer, a few months earlier. I was awash with the scent of “I am not in need”. And there she was.
I don’t know her name, so I will call her “Katie”.
Katie was standing at the stoplight, just like the others I had encountered during the prior month or so. I did what I had done at least half a dozen times before: opened my window and reached out holding a kit and said: “Good luck”. I never knew what else to say. Katie accepted the bag with a smile, glanced at me when I spoke to her and said “Thank you, bless you”.
As I turned the corner and drove away from Katie it hit me.
I have been out of work. I have struggled to find clients when I decided that freelancing was a better route for myself. I have moved to cities where I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t have income. I have wondered how I was going to pay my mortgage. I have taken (huge) pay cuts to take jobs that fed my soul versus my
bank account. I have worried that life decisions I was about to make would change how I lived my life. I have gone without health insurance. I have eaten through my retirement to survive. I have taken risks. I have survived.
You see, I have never been without the basics; I have always had a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes to wear, the ability to shower or brush my teeth and feel clean. And if something had happened where I lost everything, I have people I could turn to and know they would help.
I know that I am incredibly blessed.
I handed Katie her kit on a Saturday afternoon. The day before, I handed a kit to a woman who smiled as she thanked me – she didn’t have front teeth. And as I sat there at the light, I noticed Katie had a plastic bag with a toothbrush leaning against her backpack. No one’s experience is the same; nothing we offer can provide for everyone. But the idea that Katie had a toothbrush and that she protected it more than I do… reminded me that our habits and needs are all similar.
I thought, simultaneously:
- I wish there was more I could do for people in need.
- I am so profoundly thankful that I have not been that in need.
And that was when my heart exploded in sadness, appreciation, and gratuity all at once.
I know there is a lot of talk about the 1% vs. the Rest of Us. But in the same way I always advocate that we focus on the #HappyMaker that is in the everyday vs. the BIG moments, I would ask that you take a moment to focus on how you’re day-to-day life is.
If you’re reading this then you have access to a computer or phone. You have access to the internet and potentially social media. Whether that is actually a pro or a con is a conversation for another time.
I’d ask that every one of us remember that if we have our basics taken care of and enough to spend on nice-to-have items in life. Count your blessings… and be thankful for every person, experience, and day you have to give and receive in your life.
Oh, and if you’re interested in what the Karma Badgers had to make their kits:
- Gallon zip bag
- Pair of socks (ideally, 2-pair socks)
- Protein (I wanted 3 different sources per bag. We offered canned tuna, beef jerky, and a protein bar. NOTE: Those who were toothless may benefit from liquid protein sources.)
- Lip balm
- Wet wipes
I’d encourage you to get some friends together and build some kits to hand out. You can help someone in a simple way – even if it makes you #HaveAFeeling