I was talking to a man I know who had suffered his own bout of homelessness. We started talking about the things that meant the most to us when it ended. This was our list:
1. A bed and a bedroom. You walk to a door, you open it, it is your bedroom. You close the door, turn out the lights, slide into your bed, pull the bedding over your body, close your eyes. Maybe you pray, maybe you don't. Maybe you fall asleep right away, maybe you lie there and think for a while. None of that matters. What matters is that this is your room, your bed, this bedding is bedding and not a coat or a sleeping bag or other clothes. This is your little space. Yours.
2. Showers. The feeling of stepping into a shower with hot water? A nearly unmatchable sensuously fulfilling experience.
You get up early in the morning, walk outside in your bare feet, step on something sharp, curse, grab the paper, walk back into the house, start making coffee in your pot, and open the paper up completely on your table, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and start to read. It's morning, my friend. You are at home, reading the paper and drinking coffee.
3. Bare feet and then socks. You get up, walk into the kitchen in your bare feet and the floor is cold. You turn around, go back into your room, put on socks and go back to the kitchen.
4. The smell of food cooking in the kitchen. You open the door and walk into the house and there, a few rooms away, is the smell of food cooking. Maybe it's a chicken roasting in the oven, or a marinara sauce simmering on the stove, or onions and garlic being sauteed in a pan. It doesn't matter. What matters is what it means: some time soon, you will sit down at a table and eat dinner with some of the people you love.
5. Housekeeping. Nobody loves housework. And then I didn’t have a house. And then, after a long time, I did again. The pleasure of sweeping a floor, wiping off a counter, putting dishes in the dishwasher … nearly unspeakably joyful. I make my little place clean. It is my place and I have made it clean. I feel comfortable in it now. It isn’t a pile of clothes under a stairwell or in the back of a minivan. It is a proper living space and I have cleaned it. I am a decent human being. I can barely think of anything that makes me happier than making my space clean and orderly.
The old saying is that the best things in life are free. I don't know about that. None of these things are free. But they don't cost much. And when you don't have them, they are priceless.
Excerpted from "Tell Me Something, She Said" by David Raether. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.