October 26, 2011

Learnings from the Tent (October 26, 2011)

Phase I of That Poverty Project may be over but it's presence is still felt by me everyday.  With a focus on homelessness while living for the better part of three months in a sparsely equipped tent, I'm sure that the lessons I have learned will be with me for a lifetime.

In the realm of things-that-probably-don't-make-a-difference-to-anyone-else, I have noticed some changed behaviours within me as a result my time outside.  For example, watching television is no longer part of my daily routine.  Whereas I used to watch TV every evening, now I rarely even think of turning on the tube as something to do.  Similarly, I haven't had too much inclination to snack.  Sure, I have snacked . . . but not every night like I used to.  I suspect there is a strong correlation between the snacking and the change in my television habit.   Also, as much as I dreamed of showers while I was in the tent, I find that I don't need to have a shower every day.  It's certainly nice to have the option, but it is no longer a requirement.  Will these last?  To be honest, I don't know.

On a grander scale, there are some things I learned that I think everyone could benefit from giving some consideration . . .

#1 - I don't need "as much".   As mentioned above, I don't need television as much or showering as much.  However, I also find I don't need the car as much, and I don't eat as much (I still eat a tonne, but not a tonne and a half like I did).  And, as you'd also expect, I don't need as much stuff. I haven't bought myself anything except for a new CD released by one of my favourite singers.  All of this means less energy consumed, less resources used, and more time on my hands.

#2 - Mind games are not fun.  The number of mind games that one gets sucked into was the single greatest surprise to me during Phase I.  I felt dirty, second class, "less than".  When I spoke with Deb Runnalls at The Mustard Seed in Calgary, this was partially explained when I learned that street homeless often apply the stigma and prejudice against the homeless to themselves.  Particularly in a society where many "have" and there is visible abundance, there is a huge inclination to fall into this trap.

#3 - Psychologically speaking, there is a HUGE difference between camping and living in a tent.  The factor that creates the difference is choice.  Without choice, living outside is no longer recreational.  This isn't just semantics or a mind game, it's real . . . and for some it is incredibly depressing.

#4 - Everyone that is homeless is a real person, just like you and me.  This seems obvious, but I think it is something that we need to be reminded often.  The stereotypes and myths about "laziness" or that people created their own poverty are not only wrong, but incredibly hurtful to overcoming poverty.  Each homeless person, whether on the street or in a refugee camp, are unique individuals with gifts and needs just like everybody else.

#5 - Gratitude.  While I have always considered myself a grateful person, I am now especially grateful for those things that I had previously taken for granted.  I am thankful for warm beds, clean clothes, hot showers, the company of others, and electric lights to name just a few.  These are incredible blessings that everyone should be able to appreciate.


So . . . what would you add? 

Are there some other things you learned during Phase I of That Poverty Project?


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2 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Sean. While I'm sure you learned these more profoundly because you experienced them first-hand, I'm definitely more aware of these truths than I was before you started Phase 1. Thanks for letting us experience this vicariously through you! I can't wait to see what God has in store for you and your readers in Phase 2.

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  2. Sean D. Krausert, EditorOctober 31, 2011 at 9:52 AM

    Thanks so much Rob!

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