Bottles of cleanser line a windowsill
It began simply enough: a small voice coming from “somewhere” echoed in my head as I sat quietly in church a couple of years ago. Small, yet booming, that voice cut through me and reached into my heart and soul… “Give it away!” Covered in a blanket of peace, I knew what I was being called to do. Yet, the process to accomplish the task was overwhelming. Where would I start? I had no idea.
I do not like change. Change throws me into a realm of chaos and confusion. There is security in dwelling in the known. Change forces me to confront my insecurities. Like many crossroads, I chose to take the safe route and stay on familiar ground. While I did not forget the words of the booming voice, I let its echoes slip quietly away in the recesses of my mind as I continued to live in my familiar pursuit of a safe purpose.
Two years later a catastrophe struck, thrusting the quiet echoes of the booming voice into the foreground of my mind. Torrential rain swept quickly through a nearby town, flooding the homes and streets of hundreds of people. An oversight gave me an uncommon, but welcomed Saturday free from work. How I would spend the day brought me again to a familiar crossroad.
A local disaster relief organization issued a call Friday evening for volunteers to work Saturday morning to help clear debris and tear down walls saturated from the flood. Though I had often wanted to help in situations of disaster, finding ways to be unavailable was never difficult. With my work schedule cleared and no handy excuse left (Aside from my own reluctance to step out of my comfort zone), I found myself signing up to help.
Saturday morning arrived dark and gloomy. Fog and drizzle hung as an oppressive cloud in the air, setting the mood for what was sure to be a difficult morning. Leaving the house far too early for a Saturday morning, I made a quick stop by the store for some needed supplies and then made the 20 minute drive to the planned meet-up location. Hundreds of volunteers, shovels in hand, huddled under the organizer’s tent in hopes of staying dry. After a short briefing session, we were placed in groups and given the address where we were to assemble. A short briefing session could never prepare me for what I was to see next.
A small church parking lot served as the gathering spot for our group of workers. The building of the church was little more than a shell. Already a relief crew had begun to remove the damaged contents from the church building. All would have to be replaced. A second group of relief workers had begun to compile donations that had already been brought by compassionate neighbors.
As we stood waiting for the rest of our team to arrive, a gentleman came up to us and introduced himself as the pastor of the church where we stood. There was nothing about his appearance that would have identified him as a pastor– he wore the clothes of a refugee. His countenance was of one who has been dealt a life-shattering blow. Yet, the spirit of humility he wore and the look of hope on his face bespoke more than words could express. He gestured to the skeleton building behind us and confidently declared that it would be rebuilt. Yet, his concern was not for himself, but for the people he served. He told us of the family we would be helping and of the fate of all of those who had lived on the desolate street. Huddled together, we said a prayer for the workers and for the church and for the families affected by the catastrophe. With more words of gratitude than was necessary, the humble pastor guided us to the home of an older couple, where we would be working.
It had been a comfortable home before the storm. The closed gate held a sign which read, “Green Acres”; a nod to the hopes and dreams of its owner. A mobile home sat back from the street, holding the treasures of a family collected through the years. Behind it stood a second home, built on a concrete foundation. Its erratic floor plan suggested a home with additions added as the family grew. Large furniture pieces stood sentry outside the home; their bloated forms left to dry in the Texas sun.
“All damaged goods must be brought to the street. Any walls with water damage above 4 feet must be taken down completely and the insulation removed,” we were told. Donning work gloves and masks to protect us from the unknown, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. Inside, the dank, musty air clung to everything, warning of the dangers for mildew and mold to set in. Carpets were covered in muddy water, masking any evidence for their original color. Wheel barrow after wheel barrow; dumpster after dumpster; the water had crested at over 5 feet– all the walls had to be ripped out. Bottles of cleanser lined a windowsill, a sad little army that would never be able to conquer the task before it.
Going through soggy stack after soggy stack of pictures and papers, family heirlooms and treasures– we remained numb to the task before us. There would be plenty of time to sort out the senses later when we were back safe in our homes of warmth and comfort.
One o’clock came and with it our relief. Teams rested and fed, still clean from a morning’s shower, arrived ready to take over our task. It was a welcomed transference for our weary team. At about the same time, the home owners also arrived. They were holding up well in spite of their overwhelming loss. Perhaps they were still in shock. “What did you do to my house? We just thought you would be cleaning the carpets for us?” There had been some miscommunication between the husband and the relief network over what work would need to be done. Relief Network councilors stepped in and I quietly stepped out.
The drive home was a quiet one as I began to process all that I had seen. Walking into my apartment that afternoon, I was met with the uncomfortable feeling of overabundance– like the feeling you get when you leave a buffet; full and uncomfortable. My eyes swept across the walls of my apartment; my mind transposing the waterline image from the home that had seared itself onto my brain. I imagined people combing through all of my stuff, dumping it by the barrow-full into a dumpster. Why did I have so much stuff? The dread of guilt overcame me. I wanted to load up trucks and give it all to the people I had met that day; but those people had no house in which to store it. I heard the booming voice once more “Give it away!.” “How, Lord? Where do I start?” I questioned.
It’s funny how time and the busyness of life can work its way into a person’s mind and help them to forget. As time continued on, I let the memory fade and comforted myself by buying more stuff.
My lease on my apartment will be up soon. As my rent continues to rise, it is rising right out of my ability to afford it. Being faced with an imminent decision ahead forces one to the crossroads of decision. I am here again, at the same place I was before. This time, I can’t take the easier path. Circumstances dictate that I must make a choice and take action. My only option is to downsize.
I have been looking into tiny homes for about a year now… the concept of owning a small home and not having to pay rent or make a mortgage payment is appealing to me. But could I ever live in so small a space? Recently, I found a blog of an older couple who downsized into a home just under 600 sq ft. The home is adorable and exactly what I would want for myself. Still, my possessions overwhelm me. I would never be able to cram all of my stuff into such a small space. A Google search brought me to the blog BecomingMinimalist.com The story of Mr. Becker and his words of wisdom resonated with my soul. The booming voice of my head has risen again, “Give it away!” “How, Lord?” I ask. “Like this,” he answers.
So begins the journey of a collector and pack rat into the world of minimalism.
Bottles of cleanser line a window seal
the water line up about 5 feet. Everything from it down was destroyed.
2 Champaign glasses left over from 2K
I thought this instrument was pretty ironic.