Seeing Beyond Privilege – Why I volunteer for Room In The Inn

by Meredith Thompson

I love to run. Well, maybe not always, maybe not during the run. But, it’s good therapy.

Sometimes, I set out on a run, and I get in a pretty good stride, and I start feeling a little self-congratulatory. I start thinking, hey, all these miles I’ve logged are paying off. I am getting good, I have really bettered myself. I’m awesome.

Then, I get to my destination, I turn to start back, and suddenly, it gets harder. Not because I’m tired, but worse, I realize, uh oh, I was running on a DECLINE earlier, and I didn’t even notice. Now that I’m forced to run uphill, I’m painfully aware. Suddenly, I don’t feel so strong and powerful. Suddenly, I realize I’d had an advantage. I had had it easy.

It’s not always easy for me to see my privilege, to recognize that life has cut me a break, made things easier for me than for my neighbor.

Our tendency is to want to congratulate ourselves for all our hard work and our ingenuity that has gotten us where we are.

I forget that mom and dad helped with my homework because mom was able to work from home and dad only worked one job. I forget that I had an advantage finding work because of the shade of my skin and the fact that mom and dad sent me to a respected private college.

And then I spent the night at Room in the Inn. You probably think I’m going to say that was a wake-up call, but, no, I still wasn’t quite getting it.

I really loved it. I enjoyed the experience of getting to know Trinity folks better by working with them, sharing a meal, instead of just sharing a pew. I enjoyed meeting new people (our guests at Room in the Inn), talking with them about sports, hearing my friend I’d brought along carry on with someone about their common experience growing up Southern Baptist. I appreciated hearing their stories, their interests, dreams and aspirations.

Talking with them, you might get a sense of the unimaginable challenges they’ve faced. It might make us pause and thank God a little harder for the blessings in our lives. But STILL, for me, I wasn’t really getting it!

The next morning, I was telling someone about my experience spending the night in our Fellowship Hall, on a mattress I’d drug across the floor, with snoring resounding in that echo-chamber, with only one pillow. (I am used to two!) I was telling her how it was a truly eye-opening experience and one that I treasured, but that, man, I just had to drive ALL the way home, take a nice, hot shower, catch a nap in my own bed before I went to work.

She very kindly, gently agreed that yeah, that’s rough. But, she said, imagine you had to endure a mostly sleepless night every night. With strangers surrounding you. Imagine you didn’t have your own bed to begin with. Imagine you had to get up after a rough night, find public transportation, try to look decent, be cheerful and positive, and attempt to find work. Imagine you had to face potential future employers on a day like today. On a morning after sleeping with strangers in a strange place.

Oh yeah. Right. Imagine.

So much of the Bible, it seems to me, is about the promise of things being flipped on their head. Of all things being made right through Jesus.

The book of Joel says, You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. [1]

However, here on earth, things just are not right. And it strikes me that God needs us to do God’s work of righting injustice and helping others.

If Christ has helped us, we are absolutely required to help others. To be Christ’s hands and feet. It’s not something we do to make ourselves feel good. It’s something we do because we know we have to try to be the light, and because we know the only thing that really matters is how we treat people.

I can only hope that a night at Room in the Inn can help me relate to others better, that it can help break down the wall between “me” or “US” and “THEM.”

There’s a song I love that talks about a time when those wrongs will be made right, through Christ. It says:

All the poor and powerless

And all the lost and lonely …

And all the hearts who are content

And all who feel unworthy

And all who hurt with nothing left

Will know that You are holy

And we will sing out Hallelujah

And we will cry out Hallelujah [2]

The thing is, it’s OUR job to make that happen. We can’t right every injustice or change the world, but we can go to Sign Up Genius, click a link and commit to doing laundry, providing transportation, serving a meal, or spending a night. And as followers of Christ, it’s imperative that we do so.

So, I hope you’ll take advantage of all the hard work some great Trinity folks have done to make this so easy. All you have to do is sign up. See you there!

[1] Joel 2:26
[2] All Sons and Daughters (Season One, 2012)