I've done a lot of reflecting since the Sleep Out for the Covenant House on Friday night. First and foremost, I want to say thank you for everyone that donated to the Covenant House or shared words of encouragement! Your generous gifts and your words of appreciation and enthusiasm were such an inspiration to me.
I know a lot of people (even if they didn't mention it) were concerned about me sleeping outside at seven months pregnant. To be honest, the accommodations were unbelievably safe. While the "Sleep Out" event is designed to raise awareness and provide a small sampling of the experience--it is in no way meant to put anyone in danger.
During my fundraising efforts and on the evening of the event, I kept thinking about the young women that seek out the Covenant House services because they are pregnant and don't have another bed to sleep in. The may spend countless nights on the street--fearing for their and their baby's safety--and I had to spend a measly five hours sleeping in a locked courtyard that was patrolled by security.
I want to share a few reflections and key learnings from this experience:
- It became undeniably apparent how much in my life I have taken for granted. I have been fortunate enough to not have to worry about fulfilling my basic needs for food, water and shelter since the day I was born. The young adults that end up at the Covenant House were not as fortunate--by no fault of their own, they were just dealt a particularly bad hand in life. No one deserves to be born into poverty, or have parents that are suffering with mental illness or addiction. No baby/child/youth/adult asks for that or chooses that. Hearing from these individuals and understanding their stories not only broadened my perspective but made me incredibly aware of my unearned privilege. While I've always known that proximity and exposure create empathy, that sentiment was never clearer than on Friday evening.
- The most notable characteristics of the young people that spoke during the event were strength and hope. Despite all of the unfairness they have faced in their lives, each of them showed incredible strength, resilience and hope for a brighter future. I was dumbfounded by the amount of optimism and gratitude that the kids demonstrated and all I could think is that if I had been through half of the things they have been through, I'm not sure I could be as courageous or optimistic about my future.
- One night is not enough. It's not enough in terms of fundraising or awareness. It's not enough in terms of listening. It's not enough in terms of making a difference. I'm not sure what my involvement with the Covenant House will be in the future, but I have been really touched by this organization and the young people that they serve and I want to find a way to continue giving back. I'll try to keep you all updated on my involvement, while respecting the fact that you likely don't want to continue being harassed for money.
So last but not least, thank you! Thank you for being my community, for supporting me and loving me unconditionally. Those are just some of the things that I have truly taken for granted.
My fundraising page will stay open for another month or so, and if you're so moved, I'd encourage you to give (or continue giving) to an amazing organization that is transforming lives!