I am crippled; I walk with a crutch that can't be visibly noticed but is always with me. I live with a handicap that most likely affects me more than any physical or mental disability might. It's tough to live with this handicap-- one moment I am content with it, the next I am sickened by it. Some may envy it, but they should be warned that it is as equally a burden as it is a blessing. From what I have experienced, it's incurable, but I welcome any solutions to my problem. I am debilitated by comfort.
In principle, it seems like a good idea. Fuzzy blankets, inviting beds, bubble baths and steaming showers, air conditioning and heat, warm jackets, electricity, cars, and Starbucks come to mind. (But wait, what's wrong with Starbucks?...or any of that?) The answer is nothing--nothing is wrong with living comfortably: it's a wonderful, contented way to live if you're lucky enough to have the means to do so. But what if you're not?
What if your living conditions and the idea of comfort are as far apart in meaning as Pluto is from the sun? What if your circumstance, whether you can help it or not, leaves you shivering and sweating in extreme cold and heat, hungry in the midst of mass food production, homeless amongst mansions, or lonely in a world with a population over 7 billion? What, then, is comfort?
Let me pause a moment from frantically posing questions that are (possibly) rhetorical and begin with what I know.
This summer, I attended Salkehatchie Summer Service for the first time. I went with my best friend and a number of South Carolina churches to Aiken, S.C. to repair homes for a week. This experience, which I have written on in an earlier blog post, was incredibly eye-opening. Prior to this week, I honestly had no idea what poverty looked like in a household setting. Upon entering the dilapidated house my team worked on, filled with an abundance of pests, a reeking stench, and cluttered mess, I felt uncomfortable. This was far from familiar to me and I felt extremely out of place. However, my week of work was immensely educating. By the end of the week, I was drained of energy but filled with a new sense of the world.
For the next few weeks, I reflected on this experience. I thought about how bizarre it was that people could live in such conditions as I had witnessed (and worse) while I lived with the crutch of comfort. Never before had I been so aware of the repercussions of my handicap; the reality that so many people face every day had never been so close to me. But finally, I knew...until I forgot about it and went about my life.
Six months later, the comfort crutch crept back into my life. One night at a campus ministry meeting, we had a guest speaker that came to speak to us about her experience as a volunteer to missions in Latin America. Her presentation included details about her time in countries consumed by civil war where she worked with displaced peoples. She incorporated pictures and videos of some of the people she met and told stories about her experiences with them.
Once again, I felt a pang of regret. My handicap hit my heart. As I watched the screen, with a tin roof and cinder block houses on one side, and their smiling inhabitants on the next, I felt very bothered. Why am I consumed in comfort while others, undeserving of their distressing fates, living in such penury?
I don't know the answer, and I cannot honestly say that I ever will. I hope you didn't read this article expecting a happy solution, because I don't know if there is one; if there these I'm unaware of it. However, after reading this article, I hope you do think a little more about comfort--
who's got it, who doesn't, and how to overcome it.