Excerpt from TA K E T H AT L E A P - C H A P T E R 9 | UPS & DOWNS
By the end of the day, it didn’t really matter that we were tired. The joy of nailing the last shingle on the roof and putting the last touches of paint on the walls was uplifting. We formed a circle in the dirt outside Hector’s family’s new home.
Kina, all covered in paint, dust and dirt, had a huge smile on her face as she gazed up at me. Rieko, Dylan and Devon, similarly covered, were beaming as well. When we passed the keys of the home to the mother, Rieko broke down in tears. And then we all did. We knew what awaited her and her family.
We all stood and watched as she turned the key in the lock and then slowly opened the door. Expecting to enter an empty home, she screamed with delight when she saw what was inside. Then she started to shake and cry with joy at the surprise we had arranged for them.
A few hours earlier, we had arranged for some of the ladies in the volunteer crew to take the whole family shopping with a small sum of money we had donated for that purpose. While they were away, we had filled the new house with furniture, set up drapes, assembled bunk beds for the kids and laid the table for dinner. The finishing touch: we scattered toys across the beds.
We let the family enter their new home and close the door. After several minutes, Kina went to knock on the door to ask their permission to enter. When I stepped inside and saw Hector’s face, I grabbed him and we hugged and cried together in joy for a minute or so. While we had been working together on the trusses, he had told me of his family and their hardships. It was hard for me to comprehend, but Hector was now the first of his entire bloodline to live in a home.
After returning from Homes of Hope in Mexico, I stopped the car at the top of our driveway in Vancouver and looked at our own home through fresh eyes.
This is not right. Why do we have so much and so many in the world have so little?
And then from the back seat, our kids piped up with a question that resonated with us both. “When can we go again?” Followed by a surprising, “And next time, can we bring a friend?” Within a week, our entire family had agreed that we would rather go to Homes of Hope every year than go on a vacation in some beautiful place like Hawaii.
After our third year of running the gauntlet of the Mexican border, our kids agreed to do presentations to their school classes about their adventures building homes for the homeless. What happened next was quite miraculous. Kina and Devon were still pretty little, so Rieko went with Kina and I went with Devon. When their classmates saw our kids in the slide shows, they instantly connected with what was going on. Suddenly, all the hands in the room went up. One child after another asked us, “Why don’t those kids have houses?”
“Why…” “Why…?” “Why?” The chorus was loud.
The classic question came to Devon. “How much do they pay you to go down and do this?” I will never forget the look on my young son’s face. He was perplexed at first, and then I could see him figure out his reply. “Why would anyone pay us to do such a nice thing? We don’t get paid anything. It’s just a nice thing to do.”
This was one of the most impactful and meaningful experiences of my life. To have my wife and children experience it with me was magic.