Daniel Day’s new book, Ten Days Without is an extraordinary lesson in life, discomfort, love and change. If you need to shake up your life in order to get unstuck, read the book. You will never put your coat on the same way.
Several years ago, Daniel decided that he wanted to give shoes to children who didn’t have any. So, like any clear-thinking person, he decided to live without shoes for 10 days. Then, he asked friends to support him by donating shoes to needy children. He collected dozens of shoes for poor children and then had another idea. The children needed coats too.
So during a Colorado winter, Daniel decided to collect coats for them by, you guessed it, going 10 days without a coat. His children watched him get in his car during snowstorms with only a shirt on. When I asked Daniel about the experience, I was struck by his enthusiasm. Yes, he froze, he said, but not in a way that made me feel badly for him but rather in a way that made me want to try it to. Why? Because I heard something in his voice that made me realize, the experience deeply changed him. And I wanted to change too.
“You will never take shoes for granted again when you stop at a gas station to use the men’s room and you have no shoes on. And in the winter, when driving your kids to school without a coat, you come to appreciate the warmth you throw around your shoulders numerous times a day without a thought.”
But Daniel didn’t stop at going 10 days without shoes and coats. He dug deeper to find what really lay inside of him and what needed to change in order to serve those who are less fortunate. He went without furniture, legs, (his wife wheeled him in a wheel chair for 10 days) media (couldn’t we all benefit from that?) human touch and what would be hardest for me, speech.
Beyond helping those who are less fortunate, why do something so radical, I wondered. As I spoke with Daniel, it became clear that depriving oneself of common luxuries (really, needs) sharpens ones sensibilities. And this is important if we are to choose to meaningfully engage others around us. Most of us spend our days so focused on ourselves that we really don’t see or hear the needs of others around us. We see the needs of the poor, that’s easy, just turn on the television. What we miss is seeing the needs of those we love. We miss seeing the blessings that we sit on, walk on, listen with and speak with every hour of every day. We live with such dulled senses that we ignore the goodness of life around us and the needs of those who walk into the same room.
So kudos to you, Daniel. You have taught me a sobering lesson. I don’t know about you who read this, but I’m going to follow Daniel’s lead because I don’t want to miss the goodness in life. And I most certainly don’t want to miss seeing the life and love in my family, friends and patients I encounter every day. For you who are skeptical about all of this, just read 10 Days Without and if afterward, you don’t want to try any of these disciplines, you can still learn about yourself by reading about Daniel’s.