I sat in my car in the parking lot of a local home improvement store. It was Saturday morning and I was there to pick up supplies for this week’s volunteer experience. After turning off the car, I sat quietly in my seat and began to reflect back on our volunteer work. I thought about many of the projects that we have completed for others that center around home improvements. Each one of those projects taught us, especially the girls, new skills and new trades. One particular skill that we all seem to be mastering (okay, not really but it sounds nice) is painting. Over the last 3 years we have done a lot of painting projects for neighbors and nonprofits in need. We’ve scraped and painted an entire two-story house and garage to eliminate code enforcement issues for a disabled man. We have added color to a bedroom that is home to four women who are recovering from the addiction. We scribed motivational quotes and images on the walls of an organization that works with troubled youth. We have even beautified our city by putting a new coat of yellow on fire hydrants. As I sat there in that moment, I realized just how awesome each of these experiences were in our lives. Each experience a teacher and we, the Brown family, the students. This week, we put our painting expertise to work and once again we were schooled.
Emma is an 81 year-old woman who has health concerns. She has lived in the same house in Fort Wayne for almost 55 years. A house that was home to a large family with ten children at one point in time. Today, the house is in bad shape. The foundation sags, the carpet is stained and full of holes, the floor boards are weak and ready to give, and the walls are in need of fresh paint. That is where we come in. We had spoken with Emma’s daughter and agreed to paint Emma’s bedroom, a bathroom and the kitchen. Unfortunately, we were only able to paint the bedroom and the bathroom on this visit. We spent a lot of time moving furniture that was supposed to be done and cleaning up the walls and floor so that we could effectively paint. We had three wonderful men from Elevate City Church help us with this project and we are so grateful that we did. They were a huge help.
The task of painting really doesn’t change much. We trim, we roll, we drip, we clean, we roll…you get the picture. What does change, however, are the lessons that we learn from each painting job. We have done a lot of painting and every time is different. This week the lesson was “be grateful with perspective”. Let me explain.
We realized just how blessed we are to have a family that cares for us and is willing to do anything to help us. Emma has children who are not willing to come over to help her with things like painting and cleaning (two things desperately needed). Her daughter told us that she has four able-bodied brothers who could help with those things, but they refuse to by making excuses. We are very grateful for our family and friends who are willing to give up four or five hours on a Saturday to paint a complete stranger’s home in less than favorable conditions. Thank you Ray, Chad, and Bryan for your kind hearts and giving souls. We truly are thankful to know you and call you our friends.
The experience also gave us perspective, especially the girls. Life has been a challenge for us over the last few years. Stepping inside Emma’s home and seeing its condition made our troubles seem insignificant. We have a nice home with a roof that keeps us warm and dry. Yes, it is smaller than the houses that we called home for many years and we have had to adjust. But it is safe, secure, and stable. For me, I have a new perspective of what is dirty and what is not. Kenna’s room is often very messy, but not as dirty as I once thought.
We will schedule another visit to Emma’s in the coming weeks to paint the kitchen. She needs our help and regardless of the situation, that is what we will provide. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and embrace the uncomfortable. You, too, can gain perspective through a paintbrush.