by Melissa Ledbetter
Lament for Sunday, June 17, 2018 – Warehouse 242
“Write about a time when you didn’t know where your next meal would come from, or when you worried about the security of food for your family. How did that feel?”
Life moved slowly; I was so pregnant. And then I wasn’t, because he was here, in a short space of time hidden by the dark of an ER parking lot under a late-night August sky. There was a very full space that held this excitement, this energy driven by the great surprise of a well-planned birth gone unconventional right outside the establishment that meant to keep it managed.
We welcomed our oldest son into our family, into our community, and we dreamed for him the dreams of humanity: we dreamed of him growing and thriving, learning to sit, crawl, stand, walk, run and keep up with his sisters. We dreamed of him happy, stable, with a home and food and friends and family - and us, as his parents, able to give him all he would need.
But in between our adrenaline and our dreams stood a gap. We raised all our income for our work at that time, and in the slow stretch of summer, our funds had completely run out. We found ourselves holding our newborn son, looking into the faces of our tiny daughters, waiting not for the next payday, but for a miracle.
And in a space where I usually walked with faith and confidence, I found myself angry that my joy and happiness over our new little tribe of three was interrupted by stress and tension and sleeplessness not brought on by our newborn…I felt shaken and fearful that my sense of security could rest on such a thread.
Vivid in my mind are the faces of those around us, the friends and neighbors who came through our front door with gifts and meals to share, and the faces of those we saw when we walked out the same door. We lived in our own home, we drove our own vehicles, we passed the neighborhood convenience stores as we drove to Kroger and Target. On our block, we lived life alongside a varied group of friends who owned their homes, or were homeless, who were retired military, who lived transient lives in and out of the drug house, or were often in search of odd jobs, unable to find steady work due to prison time they’d already served. These were our community who watched out for our well-being, friends who celebrated our son’s birth like one big party. And with the snap of our financial thread, I felt the dividing lines categorizing our human condition disappear. Homelessness and hunger and detrimental choices were not hard to imagine; and, looking back, I see how little effect these temporary conditions had on our community’s generosity, laughter and kindness.
In times since, when we have felt the pressure of making ends meet, I always remember that time and those friends and I realize what I confront in the anger or fear or shame I feel is not poverty around me, but a poverty in my own soul - a poverty that seeks to categorize our human condition, elevating some, diminishing others. And when those lines are gone and I see clearly the frailty of us all, I have sometimes longed to say, in the words of the band Avicii -
“Wake me up when it’s all over, when I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself, and I didn’t know I was lost…”