Two years ago I saw a story in the Mail Tribune about a family living out of a shopping cart. I rarely read the newspaper, but my interest was so strong I saved the article. Something about their plight and the community’s dream of building a tiny house village for the homeless intrigued me.
At the time, I didn’t know why I felt drawn to the issue. Although love and compassion were certainly key factors, as was my fascination with tiny houses, there had to be more at play.
Maybe it was the fact I had family members who struggled with the basics of life – even choosing to live on the street. Or perhaps it came from befriending a gentleman who shared his difficulties finding housing and employment after release from prison. Even my own challenges played into it, as I struggled to support my family in the midst of divorce, chronic illness and disability.
Regardless, I have been following Rogue Retreat’s Hope Village project ever since. It has been exciting to see it unfold. It has also been a privilege to participate in the process as organizations, churches, and individuals came together to make the dream a reality.
How a society responds to the needs of its most vulnerable citizens says a lot about that society’s values. Some in our community would prefer to ignore the growing population of homeless people. However, there are others who were motivated to act.
It took a village of caring people to build Hope Village, and in all the interactions I’ve witnessed I’ve been impressed. I saw people of different faiths working together. I saw young and old side by side. Skilled and not-so-skilled, experienced and inexperienced, homeless and homeowner, all pitched in as they were able.
Even when the grand opening date loomed near, I never heard a harsh or impatient word spoken. Never once did I feel tensions rise or see tempers flare. Instead, people whistled as they worked. One person’s weakness was matched with another’s strength. And over everything, respect and gratitude were communicated to all.
It reminds me of the heartwarming stories I’ve heard coming out of Houston’s floods and Sonoma County’s firestorms. Although I’ve never experienced anything like those natural disasters, working on Hope Village has shown me a little taste of people helping people to rebuild devastated lives.
At the Open House celebration held last weekend, I celebrated along with many others the manifestation of a grand vision. Yet, it was much more than that. It was a picture of the power of love and the power of community.
In a world where so much can divide us, witnessing a multitude unite to restore hope to the hopeless was invigorating. I learned for myself the roots of happiness grow deepest in the soil of service. And they grow deeper still, when the service is accomplished through the teamwork of community.
As a writer and introvert it is my nature to labor alone. But now, after experiencing the joy of laboring alongside others, I feel inspired to become more involved in projects beyond my personal projects. I also feel challenged to take bigger risks and dream bigger dreams.
Seeing Hope Village materialize showed me no vision is too grand, no obstacle too big, and no people too diverse. There is no limit to the good we can do when we lay our differences aside and find common ground on which to build hope, faith and love. And in the building, we will find ourselves built up as well.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” ~ Helen Keller
Note: this post was published as a newspaper column in the Mail Tribune. View it here.