This weekend I joined other leaders from my Church and 14 high school youth at Reggie’s Sleepout. It’s an annual event that raises awareness and funds for homeless youth in our area.
The event is named after a young man who died homeless, shortly after aging out of the foster care system.
Participants raise money for Iowa Homeless Youth Centers and sleep out overnight in cardboard homes they build on the field at Drake Stadium in Des Moines. This is the 11th year for the event and my 6th year attending. It was my oldest daughter’s first Reggie’s Sleepout.
We had a great group from our Church. While I and another one of our leaders were checking in our group, event staff carted our cardboard to the field. Then we began the process of constructing our home for the night. I say we, but what I really mean to say, is the youth from our Church began constructing our cardboard home.
It’s always fun to stand back and watch them work. Some take charge offering design ideas and suggestions. Everyone pitches in to make the ideas a reality.
This year our home came together in roughly 2 hours. From a pile of cardboard to a structure big enough to sleep 17 in 2 hours. That’s impressive!
Once our home was completed, we headed for supper. It was a mac and cheese mixed with peas pasta and a dinner roll. The kind of meal you might expect at a homeless shelter. I would have preferred the peas on the side but ate it anyway.
That’s kind of the point. To get a brief glimpse of what the homeless go through. They don’t get a choice of meals. They eat what is offered or go hungry.
I ate around the peas as best I could and then took in the talent show. It was a fun time! Some participants were better than others but I was really impressed at how the crowd encouraged everyone.
By this time, it was 11 o’clock and they were serving pizza in the food tent. A long line formed and seemed to stretch on forever. After a 30 minute wait we were at the front of the line to get our slice of pizza.
That’s right. We each got a single slice of pizza. When was the last time you ate a single slice of pizza? Whenever I eat pizza it’s always more than one slice. I will say, that single slice of pizza tasted like the best pizza I’ve ever eaten.
Thirty minutes in line to get it… less than a minute to eat it. I left wanting more. In the back of my mind I realized that this is probably a common thought of those who are actually homeless… not just those of us who were pretending for a night.
Our youth group had a great discussion and faith lesson at midnight, then it was time to try and get some sleep. “Try” was the key word. I was plenty warm but the ground was hard and unforgiving.
I got 5 hours of sleep but it wasn’t quality sleep. Every half hour or so I’d wake up, look at the time, and curse under my breath that it wasn’t later than it actually was. My back ached and I couldn’t get comfortable.
At 7am the lights came on and we tore down our cardboard house. I think we were all thankful for the experience but ready to return home to our warm beds.
I, for one, was saying a prayer of thanks when I did get home and slid into a comfortable, warm bed. Reggie’s Sleepout made me realize that I have a lot to be thankful for.
With this experience fresh in my mind… I offer up this week’s Bible verse: Proverbs 19:17 (NIV)