What would you think if your boss or your partner sent you on a long trip to do something, but then told you to take nothing with you and just to rely on the help of strangers? I remember years ago, when I was in the seminary, hearing stories of one of the formation directors who used to send college students out on the road in the summer time, having them travel hundreds of miles and only giving them $10.00 to take with them and nothing else. They were to make their way across these hundreds of miles relying on the help of strangers. This, he said, helped them get a real sense of what the poor feel in their lives. Certainly it was a different day and age back then; but a challenging way to learn that maybe we don’t need as much as we think we do.
I wonder if having much holds us from experiencing life’s richness in other ways. I wonder if it holds us from interaction with others and opportunities to be of mutual support, that otherwise we simply don’t see, as each of us is mired within the secure confines of our own homes.
This past week, after a violent windstorm, the residual effects of Hurricane Ike, I was left without electricity for a week. Certainly much less worse than those devastated by the brunt of that storm. Yet even this little “inconvenience” made me not only think of , but feel with those in other parts of the world who never have electricity. It made me get out of my house and interact with neighbors and others in coffee shops and the like. I met more people in this past week than I have in a quite a while. It created within people a mutual inter-dependence that otherwise we rarely experience. Although a little edgy at times due to sinus problems and a lack of sleep, this past week opened a deeper connection with people, many of whom I didn’t even know. It made me realize in a real way that maybe I don’t need all those things I have and, not only that, they keep me from experiencing life at deeper, interconnected levels.
“Take nothing for the journey; neither walking staff nor traveling bag; no bread, no money.” (See Luke 9: 1-6) Perhaps today we could ask ourselves this: how are my possessions holding me from experiencing a richer, fuller life? What can I do live a more inter-dependent life?