Several General Conventions ago – Columbus, 2006 – I wrote a piece for Center Aisle that (I’m happy to say) people actually remember, years later. I’ve repeated it, with variations since, and even though I’m not attending this General Convention, it seems to bear repeating:
I don’t know if The Episcopal Church is good news to the working poor, but you can be, in one small way, while you’re in Salt Lake City. And that is, if you’re staying in a local hotel, to leave $5 on your night-stand each morning for the housekeeping staff.
By the time the General Convention is over, you’ll have left around $55. Probably not such a big deal for you, and about what you may be paying for airport parking back home.
Not a big deal to you, and not a big deal if you are the only one doing this.
But do the math: They say that General Convention will draw over 10,000 people to Salt Lake City over the next 10 days. Not all stay the whole time, of course, and not all spend the night in hotels.
So take half that number and say 5,000 people are spending the night there and let’s say they spend at least five nights.
If 5,000 people leave $5 a night, we inject $25,000 of cash directly into the hands of the working poor each morning; multiply that times five nights, we give $125,000 by the time we leave.
A less conservative (but completely possible) scenario: If those same 5,000 people leave $5 a night for 10 nights, we inject a quarter-million dollars into the working poor’s economy.
And let’s look at it from the perspective of a housekeeper: Housekeepers at the hotels clean, on average, 15 rooms a day. If each hotel guest on his or her floor left $5, that housekeeper would take home $75 income each day.
Actions speak louder than words, and I suggest that this simple action – leaving five bucks on the nightstand each night – is a lot more meaningful and powerful than any carefully worded resolution affirming the poor or claiming solidarity with them.
For extra credit, say hello to those housekeepers when you see them, to seek and serve Christ in the face of those who would otherwise be invisible. But as nice as a smile and a warm hello are, they don’t buy milk or pay the electricity bill. So leave the five bucks each morning, whether you see the recipient or not.
It’s a small price to pay to be good news to the working poor.