In summarizing my first week of SF Night Ministry (www.sfnightministry.org), the old adage of “Brother can I get a dime?” is for now supplanted with “Brother can I get a little sleep”?
As the evening progresses, along the city streets their silhouettes lay midst piled debris. Layers of cardboard, blankets and bags with belongings nearby, within arm’s reach; they lay asleep under the constant sound of passing traffic, city lights, intermittent conversations and passers-by – some doing so quietly while others deliberately disturb them.
In my little experience of maintaining the night hours (between 10pm and 4am) I am walking around and running on little sleep. Not are these new hours during the week a challenge but my weekends so far have been going between Northern California and Southern where I literally sleep on a floor…. It seems I have been thrust into a new reality…
This new reality has little sleep in it. I am getting little comfortable sound sleep. Here I am, new to this Night Ministry adventure and God has provided me the opportunity to enter not only the streets but sleep deprivation.
I am here to say…it’s a bi$ch!
Maybe I am spoiled but I have always assumed and preferred a sound night’s sleep from the comfort of my clean, warm and safe blankets and I am a good sleeper too. Typically once I am out, I am out. Now? I toss and turn – A.L.L.N.I.G.H.T.L.O.N.G.
The people I see at night, between the hours of 10pm – 4am are living a life of little sleep. They have nowhere to lay their head. They weather the elements while sleeping with one eye open at all times. They risk their lives while sleeping too soundly or they risk being ripped off.
With all the noises and elements they weather, their sleep is highly disrupted and intermittent and if they should go to a shelter or find some out-of-the-way hiding place; their sleep is interrupted due to hours or rules.
Where some of us are quick to think folks asleep in the park during the day are drunkards, perhaps many are working to round out their lack of shut-eye the night(s) before. Perhaps they have no choice but to find sleep in the playground grass midst the risen sun – a place where the children play.
In my own tiredness and because I know they are suffering more than I, I looked up what it does physically to you to not get enough sleep. I got curious. Here is what I found: Lack of sleep causes increased irritability, down-right tiredness, we become socially inept, it produces stress, we lose memory, we can’t concentrate, and it changes the way we eat – how much and what we desire.
“When you go without sleep for 20 to 25 hours, your performance impairment is similar to that of someone with a blood-alcohol level of 0.10 percent.”
This week’s experience reminds me of the biblical story where Joseph and Mary fled Herod. Mary was about to give birth to Jesus and couldn’t find any place to rest. Every place they checked was not available; all they could find was a barn where animals lived. It is in there, we are told, where Jesus was born.
Jesus was born homeless…. in a dark, skanky stable with animal feces around and I bet they did not sleep well.
Tip for the week:
How to make the most effective bed for sleep if you find yourself homeless:
- Lay an underlayment. If you can use cardboard or a mat, whichever you have available. This will serve as ultimate barrier between you and the unforgiving surface – concrete, dirt, whatever.
- Place on top of that a blanket. If you move a little during the night this will serve to keep you a bit insulated while also providing a layer between you and the underlayment.
- Sleeping bag or blankets. You know what to do with these.
- Pillow? Most homeless folks don’t have one. Did you know that? More use a rolled-up garment or bag or have nothing. A pillow makes a huge difference!
Ministry idea for the week:
So much of the time folks give blankets and coats to the homeless. Keep it up! These save lives and are welcomed. Despite these meaningful contributions I have yet to see folks giving PILLOWS!
PILLOWS!!!! These quite frankly make or break the quality of sleep. Imagine a pillow that is covered with some material that can be easily wiped off yet covered for sleep? Imagine a small pillow. Not a big one but a small one that can be stuffed into a bag. Imagine giving these to any who need a good night’s sleep.
Peace to you. Now, I am off to get a little shut-eye before I hit the streets again.