Friday, June 01, 2018

Less is less

Breviary. Sleeping Bag.
Each time I stay overnight at the shelter, I bring a little bit less, I pack in a bit more haste. I won't after all, be away from home for more than a dozen hours, for all that it includes a night.  I really don't need anything.  I will sleep in what I have on. If I didn't bring a sleeping bag or pillow, there are blankets and pillows here.  My phone, a book, my breviary. A toothbrush.

Haste.  It seems such an uncontemplative attitude.  But for me, here and now, I venture, it is the deepest part of the contemplation.  It's a bit of agere contra — Ignatius' notion of pushing back — I tend to be a prepared traveler.  I make lists, I pack early.  My bag is replete with extra batteries and music and a book and get the idea. So instead I grab what I can on the way out the door. The sleeping bag from the closet.  A pillow off the bed.  And leave without turning back.  No phone charger - oh well.

But it goes deeper than that, it's a chance for me to have eyes for the women who have had to leave home in urgent haste — flee, don't stop for anything.  The people for whom "take what you can carry" means "grab your children" not your phone charger.  It's a chance to consider the forces that drive families to take children and what they can carry in a single garbage bag and sleep on inflatable beds in shelters.  Not just once, but again and again. Each dawn they must rouse the children and leave. Each night they unpack, knowing that whatever comforts are here are ephemeral. Tomorrow they will sweep the dregs of a night's succor into a bag and hustle out the door, babes in arms and underfoot. 

This contemplation-in-haste is not at all about what is good for me, as much as I certainly learn each time about what I don't need, and how to let go of the material things that bind me to this earth.  It is about looking to a place where I am not the center, where I choose not for my good, but choose for the other.  Nor is anything I can do likely to stop the tide, or even slow it. E pur si muove.  Yet still I go.  Hope is a funny thing.


  1. Much food for thought. Thanks Michelle!

  2. It's about accompaniment. What a grace for you and for the women who surround you! Thank you for this reflection.