During the last week in January, I had the opportunity to lead an eight-member team from the Vetter organization on an adventure. We spent the week building a house for a homeless family in San Luis, Mexico. A father, a mother, and four children ranging in ages from fifteen to three, were living in an 8x8 garden shed in the backyard of the in-laws…all sharing one bed. With an average daily income of eight dollars, there was no way this family could get ahead to have their own home.
We worked with Homes for Hope, based out of Yuma, Arizona, to make this dream a reality for this family. We battled gusty winds in the Mexican desert, power failures, equipment failures and sand everywhere. It was only by God’s grace that we were able to complete the 12x30 home in four days. The Vetter team learned a lot about ourselves and each other. Very few of the team had significant experience with construction. Together, a nurse, an administrator, a social worker, an accountant, two receptionists, a CADD specialist, and I relied on each other’s strengths, compensated for our weakness, and rallied together to build this home.
The mission's coordinator kept reminding us that we were really building relationships with the people of San Luis. The house was a bonus. I couldn’t help but apply this to what we do as a part of SAGE. Yes, we provide and create environments for seniors…but in reality, we are building and nurturing relationships…relationships with our design community, with our clients, with our vendors…even with our regulators. It’s not always about the house!
On the last day of our week-long venture, we had a dedication ceremony where we presented the house to Carlos, the patriarch of the family. He wouldn’t look at me as I handed him with the keys. Part of his response related to their Mexican culture. Part of his response came from a bit of humiliation that he wasn’t able to provide for his family…that people from far away came to build the home for his family…a home that he couldn’t provide. He was grateful for the home and he humbly expressed that to us later.
I wonder if many of our residents in our senior living communities quietly respond in a similar way. Many can no longer provide for, or care for, themselves. We create wonderful communities with amazing care-giving teams and say, “no worries….we have provided for you”. As I reflect on our trip, I challenge you, as well as myself. How can we do what we do, while protecting the dignity and honor of those who live in our communities?