For Lent, I decided to give up sleeping on my bed, so I have been sleeping on my floor. In the middle of my never ending mess of a room, I cleared a space to lay down blankets on which to sleep. People don’t seem to get it, though. My mom yelled. My dad was shocked, mentioning how he thought I’d be the kind of person to do something for others for the forty days leading up to Easter. My friends laughed. One of them even said, “I think you’re supposed to give up something you kinda like, not something like your bed.”
Sleeping on the floor really isn’t that bad. I have a pile of blankets and a really comfortable pillow. I’m not trying to make myself suffer. I’m motivating myself. I fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning thinking about all the people in the world who don’t have the luxury of a bed. I think about world hunger, human trafficking, poverty, child soldiers, disease, third world countries, injustice, war, and terrorism. I fall asleep brainstorming all the ways I can think of to help-what career I can choose, what I can write, what I can say, ANYTHING I can do to change the world. And, I know that sounds ridiculous and impossible and a little bit naïve, but I also wake up every morning determined to do something, however small, to change the world. Maybe it doesn’t matter that I gave someone a piece of paper to use in class. Maybe nothing changes any time I write about loving other people. Maybe working with the athletes at my school is a complete waste of my time. Maybe acting in plays with life lessons has no impact on anyone, but I refuse to believe any of that.
I think it’s the small things that make the biggest difference in the world-because small things make a difference to people, and people make a difference in the world. So, I’m going to continue doing all of those things. I’m going to find ways to motivate myself to do those things even if it means sleeping on the floor, even if it means fighting with my friends or walking away from something I worked hard for.
Waking up on the floor reminds me to check on friends who are going through breakups. It reminds me to think of others before myself, to not let my mood affect the way I treat people. It keeps me grounded. It inspires acts of kindness and keeps my passion alive. It makes me think of ways to become more gracious. It fills me with compassion, boldness, and hope.
As I was falling asleep the other night, I thought about all the people I go to school with every day, and I realized that any one of them could be the next Hitler, Stalin, leader of a terrorist organization. But, any one of them could also be the next Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., volunteer in the Peace Corps. The football player whose wrist I tape could become a self-serving, money obsessed head of a corporation…or he could become the most inspirational teacher the doctor who cures cancer ever has. I can smile, talk to him, and offer to help if he needs anything later… or I can tell him that he doesn’t need to get his wrist taped because he won’t play anyway. I can go out of my way to make sure there is water at track practice, or I can tell them to bring their own bottles and fill them up before they go down to the track. I can give my forgetful classmate a pencil every day, or I can tell him to get his own and stop losing the ones I give him. I can help the hard heartedness that creates dictators or I can spread the love that creates peacemakers.
Sometimes, I become frustrated with my age and my location. I feel connected to everyone and drawn to places of suffering, places where I can do things that matter. I have to remind myself that here matters, too, that what I can do from high school isn’t insignificant…so the floor. The encouragement to embrace boldness and let myself be affected by things because compassion hurts. There was a period in my life when I stopped being the girl who cared about everything and everyone. I was tired of being the only one who cried in class when we read sad books or watched sad movies. I distanced myself from caring. I still cared, but I abandoned my empathy. I didn’t want the weight of the world anymore. I wanted to be strong, able to help without being changed. But, that isn’t me. That doesn’t change anything. I’m soft, and I have found a way to confront the most terrible parts of the world rather than ignore them. I started crying in my history class yesterday because we had been talking about the Holocaust. My teacher turned on a documentary about WWII, and as I felt myself beginning to cry, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I thought about heaven and redemption, and I imagined Hitler sitting at a large table, standing up to offer the seat next to him to a girl who was killed in a death camp. And, they smiled. I imagined members of ISIS hugging those they have executed, and I reminded myself of my belief that redemption wins and my desire to work for redemption here on Earth. I’ve spent much of my time on the floor contemplating the Middle East and ways to end terrorism. I don’t have anything close to an answer, and maybe I never will. But, that isn’t going to stop me from trying, and it’s not going to stop the hope I have for redemption in heaven when redemption on Earth isn’t possible. I’m going to put myself in situations where I come face to face with pain and suffering, and I’m probably going to become overwhelmed and cry. And, then, I’m going to help, even if all I can do is hold the hand of someone who’s hurting.
So, I’m sleeping on the floor in my room when I could be sleeping on my bed, and I’m trying to come up with ways to change the world when I could be studying. But that’s just me. Please, don’t start sleeping on the floor unless it’s something you genuinely want to do. The point isn’t to make you lose sleep or develop back problems. Find something you’re passionate about, and do it. Do it with great love. Do it regardless of who says you can’t, where you live, how old you are, or how unrealistic it seems. Change the world. Be an incredible parent or coach a high school basketball team. Be a secretary or a banker or a bag boy at the grocery store. Be a civil rights activist or the nicest kid at your school. Fight for love, hope, and redemption in whatever ways you can. Smile, cover someone’s shift, volunteer, kiss your husband goodnight.
Wherever life takes you, I hope you find love there, and I hope you find something that inspires you to spread love, too, whether you run an orphanage in Africa or work in an office in New York City. I hope you never find small acts of love to be a lost cause, but if you do, I hope you meet someone whose small acts of love change your mind. I hope you believe in the good, but if you find yourself overcome by the bad, I hope you find ways to restore your faith in humanity. (Personally, cute babies always do the trick.) I hope you grow in acceptance, but if you find yourself stuck, I hope a situation arises that forces you to let go of prejudice and choose love. I hope you do great things, but if you think you’re not, I hope you realize that anything done with love is, indeed, a great thing. I hope that when the weight of the world becomes too heavy, you go to the Lord, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light. But if that’s not really you, I hope you go to a friend or a garden or a mountaintop or an animal or a cup of coffee.
I hope none of us ever cease to make room at our tables- room for those like us and those very different from us, room for those who want to spread love and those who have yet to experience it, room for terrorists, human rights activists, dictators, soldiers, and kids. And, I hope that someone always makes room for you.
1 Corinthians 16:23-24,