Every few days, I wrap a piece of masking tape around the sole of my shoe. These are sneakers, well past their prime, and I walk a lot. It’s not unusual for me to cover 30-40 miles every week, although not so much lately. Still, they tend to wear out, and this particular shoe is a little flappy.
I haven’t bought new sneakers because I don’t want a cheap pair, and I’m procrastinating about spending the $70-80 at least it’ll cost to get anything decent. The weather is lousy for walking, anyway.
I’m making a financial decision, then. A choice.
I make other choices along this line, guided by a fiscal morality chart that exists only in my head. Is this a splurge, and is it worth it? Along those lines. There’s very little pressure. I just choose.
But we’re not talking about me.
Let’s take a hypothetical. You have to choose between buying food or paying the electric bill. What to do?
This is not actually a hypothetical. By the way.
Let’s consider our options, though. It’s not a hard call. If you don’t eat, you will eventually die. Here in western Washington, without electricity you’ll be uncomfortable but you probably will stay alive (you won’t freeze to death, in other words, or it’s not likely). Choose now.
Choose again. And again. Keep choosing. You’re getting there. Now again.
OK. Sorry. That wasn’t any fun at all.
As REACH’s community chaplain, Rev. Leigh Weber, often points out, many people in the Renton area who come to our weekend evening meals are not homeless. We sometimes refer to them as being on the margins, or near-homeless, but really they’re just choosers. Sometimes elderly. Sometimes families with small children. People with bills for water and electricity, rent or mortgages, health insurance, car payments, daycare, gas. Regular bills, just like you have. As I have.
There’s just not enough. Not enough money to pay them all, so now they have to choose. A nutritious, belly-filling meal, served with compassion but no price tag and no tipping, please, is often the difference between turning on the heat and sleeping on the street, where choice becomes different, difficult, and dangerous.
If the homeless persons among us are often invisible – and of course they are – then the choosers are luckier, if only superficially. We can see them. We just don’t know what choices they’re pondering, what precipices they’re dangling over, what options are slowly disappearing and how desperately they’re hanging on to what’s left.
Maybe luck is not what we should be talking about.
Or maybe it is, except we need a mirror and possibly a little imagination. I wrap masking tape around my shoe because I don’t want to buy new ones today. Maybe next week. Maybe next month.
Maybe you, too, have your own masking tape stories. An oil change postponed. A teeth cleaning put off. A spontaneous trip reevaluated and taken off the table as too expensive for right now. Some other time.
But if our bellies are full, and our only concern about electricity revolves around the windstorm howling outside our window, then maybe we are the lucky ones.
Help us help, if you can. If you want. If you feel like it. If you’re feeling lucky. You choose.