It’s four in the morning and I’m on a 30 hour bus ride stopped somewhere in Alabama (I think) and the fluorescent lights are on- the kind that are so bright that closing your eyes only makes them seem brighter. And I have the darn aisle seat that is impossible to sleep in. I’m also wearing four shirts, running pants, a skirt, mismatched socks, and golden ballerina flats.
I wish I had a noble reason for my setting. Some sort of martyrdom to mark it up to. But my only explanation is YOLO. It’s almost 2014 and I’m still using “YOLO” to credit my actions.
I’ve been an adult for over a year and I still give the answer, “Because I felt like it”.
But last night was a bit of reckoning. Two years ago, I spent my summer living on Clif bars in inner city Memphis, hanging out with kids who didn’t have anywhere else to be. And we gave them food and piggy back rides and Bible lessons and our hearts. I personally did a lot of running while chasing defiant four year olds down the sidewalk. It was the best. And that time I spent there, as finite as it was, defined what I care about. It was only two months, but it was two months that I found it easier to care more about someone else’s needs more than my own. And it’s been easier since then.
So last night our bus had a layover in Memphis. And the bus stop happened to be right next to the St Jude’s Children’s Hospital. So I was on the phone having a conversation about how easy it is to forget to lock the bathroom door on the bus, and I was staring at the hospital, and I was smoking a menthol cigarette because I figured I should fully appreciate that no one can tell me what to do when I’m on a road trip, and I was thinking about my kids in that city, particularly the ones who were once in that hospital, and I was thinking about how meaningless my life is without service and how I make myself “adventure” all the time just to fill the emptiness I feel due to my lack of purpose. Some guy asked for a cigarette so I gave him my half smoked Camel and walked away from the hospital and proceeded with my phone call.
Later, as I was trying to read a book about spiritual warfare because I just want something I can understand, the cigarette guy sat by my friends and me and we collectively gorged on all kinds of wonderfully disgusting gas station food and made small talk. Small talk then led to cigarette guy buying American Spirits and me trying my hardest to not throw up while pretending I was inhaling it and him laughing at me and telling me I’m too young to smoke cigarettes anyway.
Since it was cold and we all had four hours to kill and I had already exposed my soul by unintentionally sharing the fact that I cannot actually smoke, I started telling cigarette guy, whose name was actually John, about my Memphis kids and the hospital and the ministries there. Because YOLO. It didn’t matter if this person thought I was weird because they would never see me again. So I got all deep about it and explained it in ways I never would have explained it to people I knew I would have to see again one day. Turns out he likes Jesus too and wants to be some hippie minister sermon preaching man because he lives in Colorado and everyone does yoga and is gluten free. It was incredibly refreshing finding someone on my travels to have Christian fellowship with. So we talked about the end of the world and why people hate Christians. And we came to some conclusions that I don’t think I would’ve said out loud unless I was processing my thoughts with another believer.
We decided that being homeless would be great. Being homeless would force me to open my eyes to the reality of the people around me. Being homeless would pull me out of my stupid Christian bubble. And it would be adventurous, sure, but it would be purposeful. Maybe.
And it’s okay to not know what to do. It’s okay to need adventure. And maybe college really isn’t everything. There’s purpose in everything if you’re willing to find it, I’m forcing myself to believe.
And there are not enough people willing to make a difference. I do not want to be one of those people. I do not want to confine myself to my home and forget that there are cold, hungry, lonely, needy people right where I am, and forget that I am commanded to help them. Maybe realizing that is more important than “finding myself” and “coming of age” because maybe my life isn’t about me- maybe it’s about the people around me. And maybe I have to do a bunch of stupid things to see reality. But so help me God if I spend my entire life confused on my purpose because I am so focused on myself that I fail to see a world that is falling apart around me.
I AM REALLY TIRED AND I SMELL TERRIBLE AND I’M LAYING ON THE FLOOR OF A BUS. I AM DONE NOW EVEN THOUGH THIS IS A TERRIBLE ENDING. Also I am never smoking again because my throat still hurts. Don’t smoke, kids!