Since 2010, when we founded Living Ministries, there have been several times that Karen and I have looked at each other and said, I never thought I would be here. Most of these times have included us dealing with other people that were having a hard time. I now know that having empathy can never fully compare to experiencing it yourself.
I can’t say this for Karen. For a time she was living in her car. She was so positive and ambitious that no one caught on for months. She has never told me details about the experience but I have seen a look come over her eyes that tells me I don’t really want to know. Honestly, I hope this experience is not something we will share, but it is an option if our money runs out before we get into an apartment.
For the last few years we have been living with other people; I lived with my mother and Karen stayed with friends until it was time to move on. We are always working on something but our lifestyle tends to be feast or famine as far as finances are concerned. Finding living wage jobs is not easy and our dream of being entrepreneurs while living a lifestyle of volunteerism is harder to ignore than it is to imagine. On this last trek into someone’s home, we were just about to see the regular paychecks and start thinking about going out on our own, when there was a sudden change.
What I have learned either by talking with Karen about her experiences or by my personal experiences of living in someone’s home, is that it is not yours. The kindest, most loving person in the world, who generously extended a hand, may become tired of having you around. Even if you do all the right chores and pay your way, there is always the chance that there will come a day they want you gone. Now.
This experience is like that. The first month was great. This friend was excited to have us and we had a great time sharing chores and taking turns making meals. But after awhile it was getting hard. They say you don’t know someone until you live with them and I soon learned that there was a side to my friend that I hadn’t thought was there. The commonality of this home and all the last ones we had shared with people was control. We all want and should to control our domain. It takes a lot of grace to not try to control people that are living in your home. People that are otherwise homeless and dependent on someone else’s domain, are also subject to the owner and whatever level of communication skills, ability to forgive and grace you both are able to share.
While I was staying with my grandmother, during my grandfather’s convalescence I got a text message to come and get my things immediately. I was surprised. Before we left town, we were laughing and enjoying each other for a moment before we left and this message showed me the situation was obviously worse than I thought. I responded that I wouldn’t be able to be there for a few days. The next morning another message came that was a little more urgent and Karen decided to leave me with my grandmother and return home to care for our things.
After Grandpa came home and he and Nana were doing well, it was time to return to Longview. We started home not knowing what we were going to do, but had faith that God has only the best for us. For three nights we stayed in a motel that was nice for the price, but definitely not home. They were full with reservations tonight. I am now sitting in the worst room I have ever had to stay in. The first hour I was here it sunk in deep what it was like for a lot of people. For someone that regularly sleeps on or at least exists on the street, this room is probably wonderful and here I sit wondering what we will do when the money runs out.
You might think that we could just continue working and our regular income will come, there is some truth to that, however, let me tell you from first hand experience, that when you don’t know where you are going to sleep tonight, there is little else you can think about and even after you have an answer, you still have to get over the trauma of the stress that came before. The thought of a drink or two has reminded me how easy it would be to get through this time of my life in an inebriated state – no wonder so many people do.
We are lucky. We are well-connected and have help on the way. There are so many others that don’t know what we know. I now have a better idea what kind of compassion the people I sometimes serve may need. Karen says God obviously doesn’t want us to forget what it is like to be the people we serve. I agree. I know God is always working on our character; right now, ours is going through a big face-lift.