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Back in August, I navigated Heath down long country roads in Colorado. We were heading toward family. They were letting us park our rig in front of their house for a few days while we were in town. We drove through their neighborhood and parked on a street we’d never seen before. I felt unbelievably uncomfortable thinking about what we were asking from my cousins. Yes, they are family. Family I’d met once, maybe twice, to my recollection and never at their house. And here we were, showing up at their house asking for favors, asking for a place to stay.
I felt like a grand, 29-foot inconvenience.
This was the first time during our travels that we would go out of our way to stay with someone. We needed a few nights of free lodging to make it by that month. Money was tight–money is always tight–and if we stayed for three nights, we would save ourselves $100 in lodging. We needed to stay to make ends meet.
But I was still petrified. These people don’t know me. They don’t know my husband or what we are doing. Yet here we are, inviting ourselves over and asking for their kindness and their electricity.
I’ve never been good at asking others for help. As much as we needed to ask for a few nights of lodging back in August, I almost couldn’t do it. I was scared. I feared rejection, that our request was too much to ask or we weren’t worthy of someone else’s time.
Three months later and I’m currently sitting in a large three-bedroom house in Nashville. Heath is in the master bathroom showering and I’m sitting in the dining room. We’re house sitting for a few of Heath’s high school friends who are out of town. The spacious, warm home is completely ours this weekend. And to be honest, I have my feet kicked up on their table, and I used their pans to cook us breakfast. I’m overwhelmingly grateful for this home, just in time for our first consistently below-freezing temperatures.
In the past five-and-a-half months on the road, to say I’ve learned and changed a lot is an understatement. In the past three months alone, we’ve visited 30 states. We’ve parked in church parking lots, driveways, wide suburban streets, an apple orchard, a dairy farm. Family members, complete strangers, and friends alike have pulled together to help us out on the road and in the past 90 days, we’ve only spent roughly half of those nights at RV parks.
What feels like most of the time now, we are emailing strangers or calling friends arranging to stay with them on our route.
It’s easier for me now than it was in August. I’m less anxious about accepting a place to stay. As we sat eating burgers on the patio with my cousins back in Colorado, talking about RVing and places to visit across America, I realized something.
I thought that I was worrying about what they would think of me. But I was the problem. That is, my thinking was the problem.
I believed that I wasn’t worth their time. I believed I was asking too much. I thought myself an inconvenience. I thought myself worthy of rejection, not acceptance.
I feel like I should write here that I underestimated the kindness of others. That others have this great capacity for love and kindness that we can only see when we humble ourselves enough to ask for it. That people are truly good, full of grace and eager to help.
While that’s all well and good, it was never the problem. That wasn’t I needed to learn.
I underestimated myself.
I didn’t think myself as worth much.
Fortunately, I’ve found myself in a situation where people often extend kindness to me. I use their kindness as a reminder that someone cares for me. Someone thought of me and found me worthy of the inconvenience. Sometimes I quietly fret about being refused and rejected, but still they accept me, sometimes knowing nothing about me at all, but simply eager to extend a gesture of good will.
I’m not sure how long this would’ve taken me to learn had I not found myself traveling around poor and in search of charity. But here is what I learned trying to save money and see the country all at once: My words, thoughts, actions are valuable. My life is worth something.