I have never been held so tight in my life…

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I have never been held so tight in my life, than this past Thursday evening as we thanked a woman for a simple, yet beautiful meal.The weight of what it is that students every year do while on Hero Holidays had not hit me until this past week, as I watched and worked with a group of 5 young Canadians, a few bright adults and my fellow school of leadership students. All of us brought together for a common purpose. To give a deserving man a home fit for a human being, so he can be rest assured that at the very least…his family will sleep comfortably at night. We all worked side by side through blaring sun and freezing wind, ignoring our hammered thumbs, tired arms and sunburns to get the job done. These students impressed me with their big smiles and unwavering drive to get the job done, showing that even a small amount of people can do big things if they have a good reason. The person who impressed me the most throughout our first Mexican house build of 2009 though was none other than the homeowner himself.From long before our group pulled up on the work site, Isiais had been working along with Hero Holiday staff to prepare his plot of land for a new home. Isiais has worked with Hero Holiday in the past, coming back on days off to simply help out. Every night before leaving work he would thank whomever was his boss at the time for the opportunity to work. Then he would go home to his family, living in a house of cardboard, tarps and plywood. He was truly appreciative of the little bit of work we can give him and is willing to do anything to help. Now as Hero Holiday attempts to give back to Isiais for his hard work, to help him and his family out a little bit he still insists upon being a part of the process. A truly grateful man, he simply wants to put a piece of himself into his home and I get the impression through our little bit of broken conversation that he would not sit back and let us do all the work anyways. As many hardworking men operate, he is not the type to sit back and not help…especially when most of the people on site are little Canadian girls. And so he stood next to us and hammered, lifted, and dug right along with us to make himself a home to be proud of. He just wanted to show his appreciation for what we were doing. No one can argue with that after watching him work and sing and teach us girls how to hammer nails properly.Consequently, every person on the build did mention how unexpected it was. Not that he was excited about it but rather that he was so happy about it that he felt the need to work with us. Although we have all met gracious people who will do anything for anyone, every one of us was taken aback by his automatic want to work with us. Growing up in North America, we have come to point of expecting everything to come easy. Hand over a little bit of money and whatever you want or need is right there. The value of hard work and determination for what you want is quite easily becoming less and less important. What happens when you don’t have the money to buy your world though? Would you ditch your pride and beg for help…or would you maintain yourself and work for it? Most of us have never been in that position and many of us never will be…but Isiais knows what it’s like to make that decision and he made it clear what his choice was this past week. He did not beg, but rather asked for help and worked for what he was being given. The shock of his work ethic gave way to speechlessness as he had no second thoughts about helping out his neighbor as well.2 women on our team had spent some time talking with the next door neighbor Natalia, who had been living with her husband in a closet sized shack next to their house. Her and her husband had scrimped and saved all their lives to build themselves a home, and were able to afford 4 rickety old garage doors for walls. Their house was still unlivable unfortunately though, because along with the dirt floor it was also missing a roof. Our 2 team members decided to pay for extra supplies to help Natalia and Jose finally move into the home they have been struggling to build for themselves, asking us all to take on a secondary project. We agreed to work on both houses enthusiastically, while feeling the stinging realization that there are too many people to try to help and right now…not enough hands. We broke our team up a little bit, as Isiais’ house entered the final stage of painting and finishing touches.As half of us headed over to Natalia and Jose’s yard to start mixing and pouring concrete for a new floor, we were refreshed and uplifted to see Isiais stepping over the barbed wire fence to help us help his neighbor. No second thought, and no complaint that his house was yet unfinished and we were working somewhere else. He wore a simple smile, offered some tips to make the work a little easier and took the shovel from my hands when I started to struggle with the difficult work. Not one of our team has enough words to describe how entirely inspiring and overly unexpected his actions were, and not a single one of us could be more grateful for his hard work, taking a bit of the weight off our shoulders … even if we don’t think it should have been on his. He taught us all a lesson that we may or may not have learned before, a lesson in hard work, determination, and hope.His work is as appreciated as the home we have offered 2 families this past week. Once the roof was put on Natalia and Jose’s home, Natalia served us up a brilliant meal of tortillas, rice and chicken. I do not want to think of how much it must have cost her to feed our entire team. As we attempted to show our thanks for such a lovely meal she blessed us each, offering her prayers of gratitude and hope for our futures. She clutched onto my side, burrowing her face into my shoulder as she tried to express how truly happy she was that we would do this for her and all the while I could only think of how much work she had already put into this.  And how much that extra pair of hopeful, hardworking hands helped make it possible, as her new neighbor worked as much or more than the Hero Holiday team.  (Kristi)

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: March 6th, 2009