I went camping with the Flying Eagle Scout Patrol this past weekend. We are in Central Minnesota where it starts to get very cold at night by mid-October. In fact, last year at this time, we'd already had our first snowfall of the season. We did not have snow, but temperatures dropped below 30 degrees overnight. We slept in thin tents intended for summer camping. I slept in a sleeping bag on top of an air mattress, sandwiched between my twin sons and piled three blankets on top of us. I tried to read a little by the light of my flashlight, but my fingers got too cold, so I turned out the light, snuggled down inside the sleeping bag, pulled the top over my head, which was covered by my winter cap, and tried to sleep.
I heard all the sounds described in Jane Yolen's book Owl Moon, including an owl! I sleep lightly, and when you're outside in a thin tent, you hear every neighborhood dog, cars driving by, and the train. But, somewhere in the night while drifting in and out of dreams wondering how on earth someone could survive being homeless in Minnesota in the winter, I heard the screech of an owl.
A local group called New Pathways sponsors what they call a "camp"aign to raise awareness of homelessness in Central Minnesota. The kids brought home a flyer about it last week. They host an overnight experience where groups can sleep in a tent or a cardboard box. They also raise money to help homeless people in our area and support the Soup Kitchen.
I tossed the flyer in my recycle bag. I thought, I can feel compassion for the homeless without sleeping in a tent on a cold October night. After our scout night, I paused with our boys and said, "We just had our own 'Tent City' experience," and we talked briefly about how hard it would be to have to find shelter and food if you were homeless.
I came home feeling grateful. I always had options. I didn't have to stay in that tent all night long. I could have gone inside the house. (We camped in the Den leader's yard.) I could have gone home. In the morning, I went home and made a pot of hot coffee. I washed my face in warm water. And, later in the day, I soaked in a hot bathtub and took a long nap on my comfortable couch.
That campout taught me so much. I learned that I can survive a night in a tent, wrapped in many blankets and snuggled close to the warm bodies of my boys. I learned that I have so much while others have so little. I learned that the will to live is strong, and your outlook is greatly improved by a hot meal and a warm bed.
The Coats for Kids drive is on for one more week. I plan to drop off something warm for a child who needs the protection from the cold and the hope from someone who cares.
Journaling Prompt: Have you ever had a "Tent City" experience? Have you contributed to or needed a social service? What are you feeling grateful for?