Yesterday, I was doing a hospital visit to a young woman that our congregation is helping support through our partnership with a local housing/mentoring ministry called Bridge Communities.
Having been in a car accident over the weekend, she was awaiting surgery to fix multiple breaks in her ankle. And as we talked together, not only was it clear that she was in pain, and not only was she worried about her upcoming surgery, she was also worrying about how she'd take care of her kids with a broken leg, and how she'd go to school, and whether she'd be able to work, and what to do since her car is totaled.
I kept repeating the same answer: "Tomorrow. We worry about those things tomorrow. Today, you only need to worry about being strong and getting into surgery."
And a little red flag popped up in my head.
One of the huge and overlooked blessings in my life and in the lives of so many around me is the blessing - and luxury! - of time. Now I know that I am crazy busy. I know that it doesn't feel like I have lots of extra time laying around from day to day. But that's not quite what I'm talking about.
I'm taking about being in a financially stable place where, if I were in her hospital bed, I'd have the luxury of working a salaried position, so I don't need to rush to get a new car, because I don't have to worry about getting paid only when I clock in, and so it doesn't matter right away if I don't have transportation or can't drive it because I'm still healing.
I'd have the luxury of taking time away from work, because I have money saved. I'd have the luxury of spending time at home to heal, and I'd have the luxury of time to be at home while waiting to figure out childcare.
Looking at her, it makes me realize just how quickly the bottom can drop out. What do you do when you have no money unless you are working, and even that isn't enough to put any in savings, and you might not be able to work because you don't have a car and can't drive it anyway and can't be on your feet to do the job itself? And what do you do when you need help caring for your kids but don't have extra money to pay someone to help you out? Or when you need a new phone because yours was destroyed in the accident? And then what about hospital bills?
This might be one time in life when I actually nod my head at the statement "time is money." Because the luxury of time goes hand-in-hand with the luxury of money. If I were in her place, I'd have all the time in the world to pick up the pieces after an accident like this. But was I really telling her the truth when I told her that she could worry about all of these things later, and not right now?
It's scary to think about how close any one of us is to falling through the bottom of our safety nets. And it's a sobering moment of gratitude to really begin to understand that time, money, and self-determination are luxuries and privileges. And it's a kick in the pants to seek justice in our society so that these things can shift from being luxuries to being prerogatives.