Mason is a normal, nice guy – kind of like the guy next door in suburban Canada. But he is different from that guy in many ways, and in his own words, Mason has been blessed and gifted. So when the opportunity came to be on a Hero Holiday when he was in Grade 9, his only thoughts were, “Bring it on!”Mason wasn’t a troubled kid, nor was he depressed or suicidal. He just didn’t realize how much the experience was going to turn his life upside down and begin to shape his perspective for good.The first time I went and worked in Mexico I was dumbfounded and awestruck that a nation in which my family unloads so much material wealth into recreationally, in reality is starving just for our leftovers.Society plagues the youth of today into thinking that material gain and social status is the fundamental foundation to providing a long, happy life. But society’s vision is skewed. Prior to the experiences that LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) provided me I was lost. I was living in a world that seemed sheltering and almost imprisoning. My life was good – do not get me wrong. I have a solid family, amazing friends and a promising future. But there is more to life than the basics.I felt as though a huge component of my life was torn from me; as if some gaping hole had formed in my contentment that I did not know how to fill. I couldn’t ever quite describe the feeling I felt, and this only applies to me personally; not the general public, but I now realize that feeling was more like meaninglessness. I felt as though my life held no purpose and provided no change for the world. I felt as though no matter what I did, my life would not make a difference. Again it is a hard concept to explain, and to the recipients of this they might think I was depressed but this is not true.The trips I have gone on with Hero Holiday have essentially lifted the shadowy veil of reality and have shown me aspects of my own world I had only previously seen on television or in newspapers.The kids I’ve played with, the fathers I’ve built homes for, the communities I’ve built schools for all have changed because of it. They are grateful and truly appreciate the gifts we have provided them with. This is one of the small facts that makes me allow myself a smile. I was a student who had just finished grade nine at a local Junior High. I used my parents’ money for my first trip, but once my eyes were opened I understood that in order for my change to matter I had to earn the right to help these people. For me to even begin to feel worthy of helping them I had to earn it. I worked for every single cent that I put into these trips and brought the leftover money with the intention of donating it for the last three years.Last summer, on his third Hero Holiday Mason suddenly became very sick and was hospitalized. The reason? He didn’t drink enough water during the work day and the lack of hydration caused a freak dip in his immune system that was dangerous. However, thanks to the great doctors at the hospital in the community and with the help of our staff, he was back after a couple of days. The sickness gave him a chance to see life from a different perspective, as he contemplated what it means to be able to have access to health care, clean water, even a clean and safe place to rest.But the best possible thing from his sickness happened to him when he got back to the house build and saw the family that they were working for: he realized how much his help meant to them.I walked in the house and immediately the mother had started to cry. She wrapped her arms around me and I could feel her appreciation with every shake and every harsh sobbing breath she took in. She then showed me a drawing her daughter had made.Her daughter had been with me every day that I worked in that hole that I had been digging for their outhouse. She had ‘helped’ me dig (though usually she ended up pushing more dirt into my half-dug outhouse hole) and she made me smile and feel as though the project was worth doing. She was only about six or seven, and would clumsily walk hand in hand with me whenever I visited the water cooler or other students. She provided me with motivation to keep swinging the pickaxe into the devastatingly hard clay even when I thought my muscles would burst from exertion. Anyways, her mother showed me a drawing that the little girl had made while I was in the hospital. Apparently they had heard that I was hospitalized because I worked too hard and they understood it was serious. The drawing was of her and her family holding hands in front of a brand new house. They were unskillfully drawn stick figures but the picture was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Her family and her stood happily in front of their home and I was drawn above them… with a Halo and angel wings.Mason’s story isn’t really about how good it feels to help someone, although that is true. It isn’t a life lesson about staying well-hydrated, although we really do insist on that. It’s about friendship. When you cross over from seeing people as needing your help to seeing them as your friends and part of your life, that’s where your life is changed. We live our lives in relationships, and a true friend is one who loves people where they are at and believes in them, no matter what.To find out more about Hero Holiday Mexico and how you can get involved, check out livedifferent.com. You belong here!