"In what ways do I live for others?"

By Jordan Schweiger, resident of Salem, Ore., and Habitat for Humanity volunteer

Ever heard the saying “as if your life depended on it”? To intensify, add “as if your child’s life depended on it.” Let me tell you about the day that two of my children’s lives depended on it.

My two boys, 4 and 5 at the time, were in a life-threatening accident deep in the mountains of Oregon. More than 20 search and rescue volunteers and two Life Flights came to our rescue. As my boys were being helicoptered out of that terrifying situation (that they eventually fully recovered from), I realized that I owed a debt of gratitude to the people who served my children. How could I ever repay it?

Carrying my younger son, who suffered a broken femur, six miles to the waiting helicopters required all my strength, but it is not an example of living a life of service to others. Had any other loving parent been in my shoes, every single one would have carried their child as far as needed. Doing what anyone else would have done doesn’t make me heroic; it makes me human. A truly sacrificial service to a total stranger in need — that’s heroic.

So how could I “repay” those search and rescue volunteers? By living likewise. By putting others above myself, even when it hurts — like it must have for those volunteers on that day, the ninth consecutive day they were called to help others.

As owner of a residential real estate company, I decided to pay the gift forward by building. But who best to partner with? Where to build? Who to enlist as coworkers in this project? Those questions led me to choose Habitat for Humanity, Habitat Nepal and high school students as partners in this giving-oriented service project.

Last spring, when I first took that simple message — living service through building Habitat homes — to high school students, I was looking for no more than 20 kids. To my surprise, more than 60 students signed up! Because of one teacher’s grit and our mutual commitment to empowering her students, roughly 60 of them lived their belief of service by fundraising. We raised more than $22,000 ourselves and got $35,000 in matching contributions from two local Habitat affiliates, sending $57,000 to Nepal. In October, eight of us, including five students, traveled there and participated in the Everest Build II.

Though my arms ached as I carried my younger son down the mountain, quitting was not an option then, nor is it one today. The greater application of that lesson for me now is in answering how long, how far and in what ways can I live — and inspire people to live — for others?