It was a small galley kitchen with a table given to us by my grandparents and we were having meatloaf again because it could be stretched into more than one meal. I didn’t know this as a child. What I knew, was that this room, the kitchen, was the place we gathered each night for dinner. Laughter that had us falling off the chair, second helpings, eight hands reaching for dishes when it was time to clear the table. Most importantly, it was always filled with laughter and love. We were lucky kids, my sister and I. We had both parents, food on the table, clothes that fit us, and a safe place to sleep each and every night. Was it a perfect life, gourmet food, and brand new clothes all the time? No. But the security we had because our parents were in a position to provide us a safe, affordable, and stable place to live gave us a strong foundation.
I typically take myself out of the story when I talk about Habitat for Humanity. The truth is, I am a part of the story. I started as a volunteer on the Family Selection Committee. While going on home visits for those applying to be Habitat Homeowners, my eyes were opened to the fact that things I took as a given growing up, were not a given for every family. I saw families living in crowded, unhealthy, and unsafe conditions. This is what Habitat works to overcome. I grew up going next door to swim, riding bikes around the neighborhood, walking to school with my friends. These children were not able to do these things. Many were not safe even going to a neighbor’s home and few were able to walk to school. The neighborhoods in which they live were not safe. Things I never had to think about as child: Will there be enough food for dinner? Will someone try to break into our home or car tonight? Will we have to move again because drug dealers move in next door? This is their reality. The need to make their reality closer to the one I grew up with is a large part of what gets me up each and everyday.
I can’t change their past. Alone, I can’t change their future. But together we can give these families and these children the vision to strive for something they have never had, security. I am a part of the story, we all are. The heroes of the Habitat story are our supporters and our families.