In the past 24 hours I have interacted with two individuals who inspired me and helped me to fall further in love with the work that I am doing with Habitat Tucson. The first interaction took place at a Sunnyside Neighborhood Association meeting, in which I got to meet some of the community members of Habitat’s Neighborhood Revitalization focus neighborhood. The president of the association is a kindhearted woman with a gentle but fiery spirit. She has a passion for building her community and for making the environment around her pleasant and welcoming to all who enter.
During her address to the meeting she told us that she had some sad news to share. She said that there was a divorce in the neighborhood. When I heard this, I immediately thought that she was sadly sharing about a divorce of one of the neighborhood families. She elaborated though and shared that the neighborhood adjacent to Sunnyside split over a zoning issue. What used to be a harmonized community next door was now a divided group of individuals. When sharing this news, the president was near tears, I could tell she was truly hurt from the situation. She used the circumstance, though, to inspire peacemaking in the residents of Sunnyside, urging the community members at the meeting to learn from the situation of their neighbors and to never go down that same road.
She shared some wisdom on peace from a legendary Native American leader named Hiawatha, a follower of The Great Peacemaker who proposed the unification of the Iroquois peoples. In the words of Hiawatha:
Never disagree seriously among yourselves.
Your skin must be thick to stand for what is right in your heart.
Exercise great patience and goodwill toward each other in your deliberations.
Never disgrace yourself by becoming angry.
Let the good tidings of peace and righteousness be your guide in all your decisions.
Cultivate good feelings of friendship, love, and honor for each other always.
The second interaction took place today over the phone. During these past two days of work, I have been furiously making phone calls to Sunnyside neighborhood residents who might qualify and wish to take part in Habitat’s A Brush with Kindness (ABWK). We are holding an event next weekend, September 29, in which we are conducting exterior home repairs on two homes in the neighborhood. As September 29 is approaching quickly, it is quite urgent that we find the two families we are going to work with!
After listening to many unanswered rings and being hung up on a couple of times, I had a moment of success when I reached through to man who is legally blind and interested in taking part in ABWK. We talked on the phone for a while about what kind of help he would like with his home and about the pride he takes in keeping his home functional. I ended the conversation and hung up the phone quite pleased by the fact that I found a homeowner to take part in our program.
After speaking with our construction site supervisor for the event, I called the man back about arranging a time we could come to his home to evaluate the work to be done on September 29. Before I could tell him why I was calling back, he interrupted me and told me that he had rethought his participation in the program. My heart dropped immediately, but he continued speaking and told me that he knows two of his neighbors who are in much more need of ABWK than he is. He gave me the names and phone numbers of his two neighbors and said that he would be willing to help me contact them if I could not get a hold of them. I was astonished! Here is a person who is need of some financial and physical help to make repairs to his home, but is advocating for helping his neighbors first.
Through these moments I learned something great about the service I am involved in this year. While I may be volunteering for an organization that reaches out to families and communities to build hope, I am experiencing people in communities building a sense of hope in me.