Unexpected Moments

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There are moments that are gifts and enable us to appreciate the people in our lives and the things we do in a heightened, more obvious way. In these instances, we feel a connection that reassures us of life’s meaning and blessing.

March 01, 2002


Dean Horowitz, Publisher

There are moments that are gifts and enable us to appreciate the people in our lives and the things we do in a heightened, more obvious way. In these instances, we feel a connection that reassures us of life’s meaning and blessing. It hits out of nowhere. It stands apart from the day-to-day details of our labor and leaves us with a reassuring sense of life’s richness, potential for fulfillment and possibilities.

These unexpected moments happen for me when I look at my spouse and re-experience the power of when I first fell in love with her. It is unpredictable, it isn’t forced, it just happens, and when it does, it is overwhelming. She can be moving the hair from the side of her face with a hand that looks like it belongs in an e.e. cummings poem. It can even happen when she’s looking at me angrily for coming home later than planned and I see the strength and intelligence in her eyes. It is like the moment when I knew I had no choice but to spend my life with her. It was the moment that I - a person who ran from commitments - became uncontrollably committed.

It happens when I see my young children playing. They are smiling or frowning; they usually aren’t even looking at me. I just breathe them in, and the feeling dissolves the hardness of a day.

So much of our time is spent not at home, with our family, but instead involved in our work. Whether during the workday or at night thinking about our day, the demands of our careers seem to take more and more of our waking hours. Separation becomes harder. While work offers the opportunity to create something meaningful out of our labor - something that lasts and has meaning beyond the personal - the focus required usually holds us back from experiencing the moments because we’re too obsessed with the tasks.

For a manager these moments can happen as a co-worker achieves something difficult, something he or she didn’t believe could be done. Other times it can happen when you step back and realize how fortunate you are to work with people you care deeply about.

During the Builders’ Show a few weeks ago, I got to experience so many of these moments. Our team accepted the challenge of building five Habitat for Humanity homes in a parking lot outside the convention center to celebrate Habitat’s 25 years of building simple, good, affordable homes. Some people thought it was crazy; too many homes, they said. Some told us it couldn’t be done. In the end, more than 1,000 individuals - builders, architects, building product manufacturers, suppliers, members of Habitat for Humanity affiliates, Habitat leadership, CEOs of major companies and Residential Group team members - built five homes for people who have worked for their American dream.

The moments flashed in this parking lot like sparks as volunteers built in the rain and fierce wind. They happened easily when a new homeowner described how her first home would enable the family to live in one place, together, for the first time. When a child who will live in another one of the houses danced on the front porch of her first home and wanted to show passersby her first bedroom. When Habitat founder Millard Fuller walked with me around the work area and expressed his gratitude to our team for pulling this event together.

But the most unexpected moment happened when I was walking out of the convention center after a day of visiting booths, focused on follow-up items, and had almost forgotten about the five homes. As I exited through the side doors I was struck by the sight of them. It was as if I had never seen them. It was a moment full of perspective and pride. The clean lines, the beauty of their design and the accomplishment of so many.

At this moment I fell in love with our industry not for what it represents as a business, or the friendships I have made, but the impact it has on individuals’ lives. Theirs and mine.

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