Duffel bag in hand, I stepped out of the van into the blazing sunlight. My eyes scanned the horizon and clapboard houses around me. How could somewhere so close to home be so opposite from home? I was used to paved streets, brick houses and grassy lawns. I was used to hearing the laughter of little kids, the vroom of a law mower and the whish of the busy street. Here, the only noise was the wind rustling in between the cracks of the homes and the clothes floating on wire wrestling with the wind. My church youth group and I walked up to a salmon colored concrete building no bigger then my room at home, and sat in a circle onthe dirt floor.
For the next two days, our intructions were to pick up trash in the community and paint three houses. The owner of the building was a catholic nun who taught the community life skills and helped them get back on their feet. As we wandered down the few streets of the community grabbing trash, I stopped to glance around. The difference that picking up a few pieces of trash made blew my mind. The community had a different light. No longer did it look like a complete dump, it shone with care and warmth.
Bright and early the next morning, we traveled back into the community to paint the homes. The home I was assigned to was about half a portable, barely clingging to rusted nails, and pieces of clapboard. We were insturcted to paint the house robin’s egg blue. As we pulled up, the mother and her two daughters ran up to us with giant grins on their faces. My heart melted. I knew I needed no recognition or awards; I just needed to see those smiles, and see the difference I helped to make.
The rest of the afternoon, we labored away priming the home, replacing a few nails, and ultimately transforming the house into a bright blue masterpiece. The home was unrecignizable. It stood out and sparkled in comparisson to the homes next to it. There was a sense of hope now. The family now had something to be proud about; they had a home. I was so humbled and greatful that I got to be a part of that transformation.
Just by spending a weekend and getting my hands a little dirty, I helped a family gain confidence, humbled myself, and became so thankful for what I had. Nothing in the world could be better then the feeling that I actually made a difference in someone’s life.
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