Meet my friend Amanda. We’ve been through a lot together and she’s been a constant encouragement to me. She also happens to have a fabulous eye for color and design. Her entire family contributed in many ways to our building project. Please read about her experience and consider getting involved in the BARN project.
Heather sat on the loveseat in my living room and told me to brace myself for some exciting news. I did brace myself, because with Heather, that could have meant anything! She said she had been approached by two friends who had seen the limits their house put on Aidan’s choices and mobility, how unsafe it was for him to use the tub and toilet, and how much more difficult the current layout of the house made it for Heather and Garreth to care for him. She said they were going to change that. Okay…..but how? She told me that they were teaming up with a contractor to make their house accessible for Aidan and that it would all be done through volunteers, fundraising and donations. Okay…..but how? I’d like to say I instantly bought into the idea, but I have to confess, I thought it was a little crazy. Winter was coming, Aidan was scheduled for surgery and this was a monumental undertaking that would be costly and need professionals! However, these friends had seen a real need and I wanted this to happen for the Bowies, so I put aside my doubts and buckled up for the ride.
Everyone knows the saying, “It’s better to give than receive.” That certainly is a nice attempt to ward off selfishness, but it’s also actually true. What the “giver” soon discovers is that they are actually receiving things they never imagined. This was our families’ experience with the Bowie House Project and here are a few of the blessings we received and things we learned as a result of being a part of this amazing endeavor:
Big things can happen through small steps of faith.
We knew the need was there and that it was big, but I mistakenly thought it would take something big to come in and take care of it. I thought the Bowies needed “ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition” to swoop in and fix it. What’s amazing, though, is that a lot of little individual steps of faith do make something big. We started to think about what was possible if we just took that first step instead of focusing on how overwhelming the overall task or obstacle seemed to be.
We all do have something to give.
This was a great chance for our whole family to give together. Brian, being an electrician and all-around handy guy, had an obvious gift and he enjoyed seeing that he could use his talents and skills for something more rewarding than a paycheck. We loved seeing our 7 year old, Caleb, with his hard hat and work gloves on lugging scrap wood out to the dumpster and hearing that he had fallen asleep at night thinking and praying about the project. Our 4 year old son, Ben, seemed to thrive on cheering up and entertaining Aidan after his surgery, especially when he got to be Robin and see his mom dressed up like Batman on a special visit to the Bowie House. Our 14 year old, Abigail, prayed for the project and stepped-up to take care of her brothers when needed. I loved being the interior decorator, bringing food and supporting the family through Aidan’s surgery and recovery.
It was also fun to see the variety of people who joined the project and the unique ways they contributed. There were people that seemed to love the demolition part, others that made sure there was food for the workers and those that came in to clean before Aidan came home from the hospital. The skilled craftsmen that participated seemed to thrive as they did a job that they do every day for a new and exciting reason.
Sacrifice is good for many reasons.
We know it’s good to sacrifice indulging in a high calorie dessert in order to maintain a healthy body. Maybe we sacrifice getting to spend time enjoying our favorite hobby, so that we can play a game with our kids. This project encouraged us to look at the idea of sacrifice in a deeper way. What do we sacrifice or don’t we sacrifice and for what?
When it comes to the Bowie House Project, time was our biggest sacrifice. We are a busy family of five and Brian is self-employed, so his work schedule fluctuates greatly depending on how many projects he has. Wouldn’t you know it, a slow work period ended right as the Bowie House Project ramped up. This meant that he would be away from the family on weekends after working long hours all week. This was difficult, but was a great opportunity to discuss the concept of sacrifice with our children. Daddy wasn’t sacrificing family time to improve his golf game. It was a great exercise in thinking beyond our own desires, wants and needs and putting another family first. I can tell you that it would have been very easy to focus on what we needed to get done around our house, or how we’d like to make plans or just have a relaxing weekend. I’m thankful that this project helped us to look beyond ourselves, if even for a short amount of time, and that at times it truly felt like a sacrifice that the whole family made together.
It’s not easy to be the receiver, either.
It was a blessing to witness how the Bowies received this gift. Can you imagine people doing this for you? How would you respond? The Bowies responded with grace and humility. They made sure that everyone involved knew what this transformation meant to them in very specific and creative ways. They were grateful, but didn’t want this project to simply be about their house being remodeled. They knew that this had the potential to mean so much more to so many people. They inspired people to take this further and to see that their situation is, unfortunately, not as unique as some may think and that we can make a difference together.
This project was not always easy on them. Anyone who has been through a home remodeling project knows that it can be one of the most stressful times in your life. Then, add in a major surgery for Aidan with his recovery including being immobilized and house-bound for six weeks during the construction. Walking with the Bowies during this part of the project showed us the challenge of being weary, yet grateful at the same time.
What is our community?
Help the Bowies? That decision was easy for us since we love them dearly! Heather and Garreth are some of our closest friends and our children muckle on to them every chance they get. They have been the people we could call at 2 a.m. (and have) and have helped us navigate the road of having a special needs child with their support, encouragement and wisdom.
However, the Bowie House Project challenged us in an unexpected way. What if it hadn’t been them with the need? What if we didn’t know the family at all? As we participated in the project, we were overwhelmed by the people we met who had come onboard without knowing the Bowies at all. They heard about the needs of a family and were moved to donate money or supplies or to volunteer to swing a hammer, paint or share expertise. These people didn’t have the benefit of knowing how amazing the Bowies are and yet they eagerly made a sacrifice.
Heather seemed to develop an affinity for the word “community” during this project. She often talked about how this was such a great example of what a community can do when they come together. I had never really stopped to think about what my “community” was comprised of, though. Was it just people that I had an established relationship with or live within a certain geographical area or attend the same school, church or place or business? Or is it bigger than that? I think maybe it is. I think community is built, expanded and strengthened when we step out of our small, safe, known circle and respond to someone in need. It may seem awkward at first. It may be uncomfortable. It may require sacrifice, but you will be a blessing to someone and, I guarantee, you will be blessed, too!
You have not missed your chance to experience community in this way. Get involved with the BARN project and help our friend Miles know the freedom and safety of accessible living.