In past posts I’ve praised living a simple life without luxuries or fancy schmancy things. But today I want to say three cheers for all the material things in my life. I feel especially fortunate to have them when Mother Nature exhibits her wicked ways, like today – when it’s hot, steamy and oppressively uncomfortable.
As soon as torrid summer temps arrive in the city I shift into summer hours, namely going to bed earlier and waking up earlier – a lot earlier. This allows me to get out on the street during the coolest part of the day, accomplish all my errands and appointments and scurry back home before the noonday sun sizzles me senseless. Even still, after walking a few miles, sometimes weighed down by bags containing cannon balls disguised as groceries, I’m usually in pretty frazzled condition by the time I climb those four flights in my brownstone. When I walk in the door and turn on my fan or air conditioner, I exhale an instant thank you for these instantly refreshing goodies. I also say a heartfelt thanks for the big white material possession in my kitchen – my refrigerator, containing the cooling wonders of ice cubes, cold drinks and a pitcher of chilled water to revive my baked body and spirit. And why is this such a big deal? Because there are people outside in the street and all over this city and country and world who are also suffering in oppressive heat, but who have no air conditioner or fan or refrigerator or clean clothes to change into, or shower to cool off in, or even a simple glass to fill with cold water.
Some people have little sympathy for the homeless in this country and Look at homelessness as a condition brought on by the homeless themselves. Sure, drugs, alcohol and bad life choices can be involved. But so can a barrage of losses – job, home, family members – combined with poverty, illness and a fragile mental state.
A while back I came across a blog, WanderingScribe, written by a well spoken young woman in England, who suddenly lost all her material possessions except the few she could pile into the back seat of her car. Jobless, homeless and completely isolated, she lived alone in her car for nine months, parking every night at the edge of a wood to sleep. Because there wasn’t enough room in the front seat to stretch out her legs, she woke every morning cramped and stiff, struggling to sit up before passer-byes spotted her sleeping bag. Staying a step ahead of security in a large hospital, she located an isolated bathroom to take hurried showers. In an effort to stay this side of visual respectability, she even managed to occasionally iron her clothes on a bench outside that bathroom. Eventually, she used library computers to start a blog to help work her way through her scary, precarious predicament.
Written beautifully, honestly and without self-pity, her diary of those dark winter days made a strong impression on me. When I snuggled deep in my comforter at night in bed, comfy and warm and able to stretch out in any direction, I thought of the contrast between our situations and wondered If I would have been able to handle what she was going through…
I tried to imagine what it would be like to have no warm roof over my head, no stove to cook hot meals and brew tea, no bed to sleep in, no flannel robe to ward off early morning chills, no thick blankets between me and the icy winds clattering my windows, no drawer of sweaters or closet full of coats and shoes and boots and umbrellas to keep me dry and warm.
Shortly after the Wandering Scribe was discovered by a literary agent, who helped her land a book contract, she exchanged her car for a new home. Her blog posts slowly dwindled. But years later I still think of her. She helped me to see my material possessions, no matter their cost, in a more valuable light. This deepened my gratitude in having them.
Can you praise material things and still believe in a life without debt? Sure. Check out A Debt Free Life.