I was shocked yesterday when one of the kids who I have been around for 6 years asked me a great question. ‘Dave, why do you do what you do?’ I responded by asking why do you think I do what I do? Then he continued to ask questions, ‘Is this really your job? Do you get paid for it?’ Then I proceeded to explain the why aspect of what pushed me to dive into doing community work. I have others that do the eye blink thing when it comes to the question of how I can been around kids, teens or adults who sometimes don’t act the best and why I would choose to be around them.
This young guy that was asking the question has been one of my favorite kids that God has placed in my life over the last 8 years. He comes out of a really unfortunate situation. His dad has been in prison most of his life. His mom struggles with being there in a real way for him but he is blessed to have a grandma, actually great grandma, that has helped raised him from the beginning. He is someone that has not allowed his circumstances to stop him from dreaming and working hard. He loves school even though those around him would make fun of him for caring and working hard.
My little friend’s question is key to understanding what makes one person love their life and another person hate their life. My wife was around someone yesterday that had a great job and family, yet, this person decided to take their own life. The impact of this action will cripple the lives of their kids and spouse. So how does someone discover their passion or love of life? I know that dreaming and volunteering to discover one’s calling in life isn’t very popular. My hope is to help others learn to dream and discover their God given talents in life. I have a niece who is a straight A student and loves design and photography. She also is doing tennis in high school. I don’t expect to see her at Wimbledon but do expect to see her pictures in many galleries. She is a passionate photographer, which isn’t any surprise because her dad is amazing!
Often our passion in life is a by-product of our family, culture, and circumstances around special people that have intersected our lives. My passion was developed over a lifetime with a wife and parents on both sides that showed the great example of caring in hands on ways for all people. It was my experience of working in a downtown church in my youth that I was inspired by a mentor youth worker. She was hands on and always on the move. I was taught that each kid, teen or young adult had value and gifts that just needed to be found with some creativity and persistence.
I was fortunate to have some older friends in one of my churches that dragged me into being involved with Habitat for Humanity. It was through this Habitat journey that I was able to understand doing community work from many different angles. I was blessed to be president of the board for many years, helping with all phases of the operation from fund raising, board development, actually overseeing many builds and most important of all getting to know our Habitat Families. I came to understand the importance of having a home, building a community and then seeing the practical importance of living and teaching sustainability.
It has been my mom’s love of people that has probably taught me the most when it comes to seeing a diamond in the ruff. I get criticized at times if I’m too honest about the nature of our work and how difficult life is growing up in generational poverty. My mom was the one that was always out going and quick to speak up and make a new friend or ask what was going on that a person would have a frown on their face. I have been taught by so many of my friends that everyone has value and the ability to make a difference in the world around them. Yet, our cultural and society too often sends the message that if you don’t exactly fit into today’s achievement or success mode that you aren’t going to make it. My hope is to create a new paradigm that isn’t based upon where you live, what college or grad school you attended, your skin color or religious preference but upon what you do with your life.
It’s true that to find your passion in life also means that you have to be honest as you self-reflect to see what you don’t do well and stay away from it by allowing others around you to bring their passion. My wife and I are clean freaks that love to pick up and take messes and transform them into clean places. This summer we have a couple of interns and five little kids living with us that typically are great at activities but not great at cleaning. My wife has this eye for spotting messes and then making them disappear. So I know that I’m not going to put the kids or my interns over cleaning the house.
I’m so glad that my little friend was bold enough to ask the why question. So don’t be afraid to ask a friend the why question of what they do and then discover your passion and love in life. It won’t be long before someone asks you the why question!