Stories of Kindness from Around the World

A Special Blessing That Lasted A Lifetime

--by tgerdy, posted Mar 14, 2010

Most of us have a few experiences each day that make us laugh or grin for a short period of time. If we are lucky, we may cross paths with something that makes us grin for a day or two. If we are truly blessed, somewhere on our path we are able to be part of something that will make us grin for the rest of our lives. I need to share such an event with you, with the hope that you would consider a similar project in your community.

I am a building contractor from Lynchburg, Virginia. I have been volunteering with Greater Lynchburg Habitat For Humanity since our affiliate started in the late 1980’s. In the past 20 years, I have tried to give more to Habitat than I have received, but it is something I have not been able to accomplish. I have always said that if you look around, there is some magic at every Habitat build. It’s that magic that makes your heart grow and helps you understand what is truly important. Just when I thought the feeling couldn’t get any better the bar was raised again.

The story began when I ran into a woman I know who has a mentally challenged son. She talked about how much he liked construction so I asked her to bring her son out to work with me at a Habitat site. As I tried to go to sleep that night, I realized what had to happen. Our local affiliate had to build an entire house with people who have mental and physical "disAbilities".

The next day I contacted some of the staff at our local Habitat affiliate. They were excited about the idea and so we began planning for "The Special Build: Unlimited Possibilities". We gathered area agencies that provided services for mentally and physically challenged people and pitched the idea to them. Everyone jumped in with both feet and/or wheels.

The Build far surpassed our expectations. The excitement and sense of satisfaction the volunteers showed were powerful. We set up worktables with a wooden platform underneath to easily welcome wheelchairs. People with limited mobility nailed parts and pieces for the house together at the tables. We provided small air-driven palm nailers so people with limited arm or hand motor skills could drive nails with the best of them. The people with more mobility framed like pros.

The build was set up as a buddy or mentor system. Our Special Builders were partnered with someone to help when needed. The fallout from this aspect of the build might have been the most exciting part of the build. Some of the buddies or mentors had never gotten a chance to be up close and personal with people who have what I refer to as "formal" challenges. "Formal" disAbilities or challenges are ones that have medical sounding names and usually contain many syllables. We all have disAbilities but most of us are able to hide or disguise our challenges.

At most Habitat home dedications there are some tears shed. After working side by side with families who have worked very hard to build and buy their homes, you can’t help but get emotional as you see their dream become a reality. When the Special Build Home was dedicated, there were more tears than usual. The magnitude of what had occurred added a magical blessing to our mission. One young girl in a wheelchair told a TV reporter "this proves we can do anything we want to do".

The blessings didn’t end with the build. During the Special Build I noticed a man who had very good carpentry skills. He was a man with mental retardation in his mid 50’s. His father was a builder and often took him out on job sites to work. I told him I wanted to hire him. Transportation and company issues were going to limit him to one day of work a week. The morning he was supposed to start, I began to have second thoughts. I was thinking I had bitten off more than I could chew. I was going to have to do some serious juggling every week to make it work. When he was dropped off, his driver gave me one of the best blessings I have ever received. She said he told her that morning that he was so excited he couldn’t sleep. He continued to say this was the best day of his life. Suddenly the juggling seemed like a very small issue.

I have shared this story for two reasons. First, I hope that just one person might read my words, realize the magnitude of what took place and consider organizing a Special Build in their community. I assure you that you will receive much more than you give. The second reason is to remind you to keep your eyes, ears and hearts open, because you never know where your blessings will come from.

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Readers Comments

josietn wrote: Thank you so much for sharing this story.
tgerdy wrote: Thanks again jsmc10. If you care to read some other inspirational pieces i have written, you can find me at huffington post. In the search box on the home page type tom gerdy. These pieces and others can be found there.
jsmc10 wrote: This is an amazing idea and i thank you for helping the disabled people to have hope and aspirations :)
Zevelina wrote: We all have disabilities but most of us are able to hide or disguise our challenges - well said! Touching story, thank you for doing this*
Jagdish Kaviraj wrote: Nature has bestowed everyone with some kind of skill. An experienced craft man can make good idol from a stone lying uncared.

I appreciate your efforts in bringing persons with some disability in the main stream. Once we are able to raise self- esteem of persons with some kind of disability they can do wonders. As in your story one young girl in a wheelchair told a tv reporter "this proves we can do anything we want to do".

As you correctly mentioned that only thing required is to keep our eyes, ears and hearts open, because we never know where our blessings will come from.
LUCKY02 wrote: Great story! I have worked with adults who have disabilites for over 15 years now and i truely love it! The people with disabilites just love when they can do something (such as a job in the community) and be good at it, it makes them feel so special. Many people do not know how smart a person with a disability really is untill they take the time to get to know them and their strenghs as a person. They are all smart and loveable in their own way! Thanks for sharing this!
sonia wrote: Such a beautiful story,i am the mother of a disabled child. He has a cognitive learning disability. As well as a seizure disorder. My husband and i often worry about his future. I just want to say that it is very very encouraging to see someone like you tgerdy it proves th world is a wonderful place and i can see a future peeking out through the clouds. Maybe someone will see into there hearts and give hima chance. So i thank you for giveing hope to people that need. From the bottom of my heart
LouisaMarie wrote: Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story.
janine wrote: Beautiful story. May god bless you:)
Annapurna wrote: With tears in my eyes your story was very dear to me. Especially loved the phrase used, "formal"dis abilities- and everyone's own less noticeable form. I hope others will be inspired to give that bit of extra effort to understand that persons with "formal" challenges can absolutely rise above expectations. Because they deal with,(sometimes extreme),challenges every day. Especially helpful was the sharing of your doubts and worries, "the building inspectors" of the mind. They have some value. Yet precedence should go to the heart, free of any limiting disabilities, (often a revelation to the limiting mind). Thanks for demonstrating this so beautifully!

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