By Jonathan Reckford, Habitat for Humanity International CEO
I’m ending this series of blog entries with a poem written by Ross Sellers, one of the members of our Hope Journey team to Cambodia. I think Ross has captured in a deep and personal way the essence of Habitat for Humanity’s mission: bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope. I am grateful to Ross for sharing his thoughts.
Time slows as you put the shovel back into the freshly mixed cement, one bead of sweat gathers at the base of your chin, ready for the plunge, the free fall; no one hears it land. Your eyes begin to search for what is needed, maybe water, maybe some sense of attachment to what you think you’re missing, but that’s the best part. Contact with home depleted, lazy life non-existent, and free-form expression at its peak. You continue to look around, slowly observing the conditions of lost treasures and pure human condition. Children run and smile, laughing at the serenity of life; parents and relatives attempt to keep them in line, trying to tame the child spirit, which knows no bounds. Families strong held, even with the grip of disease bidding high hopes of methodically ripping the strands of rope apart one by one. Tortuous departure from known existence, loss is always sad, but it’s more prevalent here and you’re sitting there and watching as it comes through like the clouds that gather above. Only these clouds do not offer cleansing rain, rather they take life before it had a chance to live, to feel, to see, and you ask, is this fair? Such a question breaks foundation, and only has a place in the minds of those watching the one they love pass. It has no business being released from mouths with cracked lips, dissipating into air, becoming breath for another, infecting their strength and resolve; no, these people must stay strong, such words are not meant to be spoken.
Strength they have, compassion they feel, gratitude treads its course and love they offer; they do not speak your language, but they do know the matters of the soul. When those children or parents or members of extended family look into your eyes, they are staring into what makes you become the man or woman you are. Even if you don’t know who that person is, or if you’re not sure what’s becoming of the person you were, in that moment, that lapse of time that slows down, you feel understood, understood by someone who has never met you. Clarity wraps arms around you, happiness looks you in the eye and humility becomes evident. It’s one instant, then you put the gloves back on, grab your shovel again and start turning over cement, because that’s the foundation to the house that will become the haven for a family that needs it more than you could possibly imagine.