The Color of Impetus is Teal Green
Sometimes I feel exceedingly sorry for myself because I have ugly furniture.
It's 15 years old, and it's teal green. It seemed like a good choice at the time. Now, it's a choice I am grievously sorry to have made. Sometimes I think it was terribly shortsighted to select this teal green monstrosity residing in my living room, but really, how was I to know that it ten years teal green would become the beribboned ceramic ducks of the furniture family?
I desperately want new living room furniture. But we live on one income, and there are other priorities at the moment. Husband and I, after spending five solid years digging ourselves out from under an embarassingly huge mountain of debt, have resolved not to live beyond our means again. So no new furniture for me.
Sometimes, I pity myself a lot because of my furniture situation.
It's a symbol; a glaring testament to all that I don't have, you see. Regular haircuts at a good salon. Just one really good designer bag. Hardwood floors to replace the stained and threadbare carpeting. Filet instead of Ribeye once in a while. A van that doesn't smell like someone else's feet.
Sometimes, a thing happens to really illuminate how much I have allowed myself to be influenced by the perversity of priorities that our society has embraced; how entitlement issues and the need for instant gratification have driven us to become a nation of greedy soulless consumers who settle for superficial perfection rather than striving for spiritual and emotional fulfillment.
Tonight the instrument of my epiphany was a machine that is entirely commonplace in the reality of my greater social sphere, but one that would be considered an almost inconceivable extravagance in many countries.
My DVD player.
We watched the movie, "Pursuit of Happiness".
Now, I live in a huge, sprawling Metropolis. Homelessness is nothing new to me. But sometimes, when you are confronted with a thing every day, the sheer scope of it is lost in the familiarity.
I don't bat an eyelash when there is a panhandler on the freeway or a bag lady collecting change at the local Starbucks. I give them money when I have it. But I don't often stop and think about how they got to where they are.
I don't think I want to.
But this movie forced me to confront a truth that most of us would rather deny, because it saves us from the knowledge that we are only a little bad luck away from that freeway exit.
At one point during the movie, Chris Gardener and his son are forced to seek accomodation for the night at a homeless shelter, after spending the previous night in a subway bathroom. He is told to be there at 5:00 in order to get a room and he races over, propelled by the certainty of a safe haven for his 5 year old son. But when he reaches the shelter, he sees that there are so many people...so many people...
The defeat, oh God, the defeat that man must have felt at that moment.
At this point, Diminutive One interrupted the movie to ask a question.
"Mom...are all those people trying to get a room?"
Both Husband and I were near tears, and it was I who was able to speak first.
"Yes." I croaked.
"How many rooms are there?" he asked worriedly.
"Not enough, honey."
"But how many?" he persisted.
"It doesn't matter how any rooms there are, babe, there will always be people with no place to sleep."
I tried to say this gently, but it didn't feel gentle on my tongue. It felt harsh and heavy and wrong. It felt shameful.
After a very long pause, he said, "That kind of makes me feel like crying."
"Me too." I said.
And it did. I felt as if I could weep for a month and still have tears to shed.
And I found myself thinking about how many children could lay their heads down on my ugly teal green furniture. Three, if they were small. And how many adults could breathe easy for just one night, watching their children dream in my shabby living room with the stained carpet?
As if reading my turbulent thoughts, Diminutive One said,
"We have lots of room Mom."
Yes. We do. And though I will never love my ugly furniture, I am now very aware of that fact that hating it is a luxury with which I have vaccinated myself against the ugliness of need.
Let it be a testament then. A testament to safety and privilege and warmth and full bellies. To Childhood with all the trimmings. To the luxury of "enough".
Enough. Yes, I like that better than empty, pointless longing.
I've been thinking about this for a while. And Jen, over at One Plus Two has been prodding my conscience with her beautiful posts and her giving soul. And this movie...it was profoundly moving and very mobilizing.
Yes, we have lots of room, but what I also have is lots of time and children who have everything they need. I don't do very much that makes a difference in this world. I think it's time. I've decided that when school starts, I am going to volunteer at a local Children's Shelter. They provide day shelter for homeless children, and support for their families in their efforts to become self-sufficient.
I can do that. And though maybe "enough" is still far from being a reality for far too many...it's a beginning.
I'd like to thank P, over at Rocking the Cradle, who is a newish writer to me, but whom I enjoy very, very much, and the incomparable Mom-101, who is a fantastic writer, has the job I always dreamed of, and has sort of been my bloggy mentor, for awarding me the June Perfect Post award for my piece "The Gift".
You can find all the nominated pieces over at MommaK's place. Go give 'em a read. There's some awesome stuff from some awesome writers.