Our first day of work with Prints of Hope started early, 30+ of us gathered at the two homes we were going to repair, eager to start and not really knowing what lay ahead. We divided into teams based more on need rather than skill: roofers, plumbing/power, powerwasher, painters/tear down, and Ikea furniture builders. As part of “Team Ikea”, I left the construction site, and headed to a nearby warehouse where furniture assembly would take place.

Building Ikea furniture is like playing with giant Legos. I’m not good at Legos. However, seeing the stacks of boxed furniture just waiting for us, we jumped in, and trying to apply all we’ve learned from various leadership trainings, started to plan our work.

Sub-teams self-formed to attack the dressers, nightstands, kitchens, and tables. Our first nightstands were painfully slow—the accumulation of knowledge. Our second set was much quicker—the application of knowledge—with the third set being even faster. And then we’d open the next box, with a new piece of furniture, and the learning process started all over again.

And so the day went, getting hotter and hotter, building furniture in the parking lot in the hopes of catching a breeze. By the end of the day we had quite an assembly, despite the extraordinary challenge of a kitchen cabinet drawer that challenged not only our lego-building skills, but our patience and humor as well. And although the day was done—the task was far from complete—4 more kitchens to build, several dressers, couches, etc, were waiting for us to attack on Day 2.

It wasn’t until we’d all regroup for dinner that we’d hear the stories of our sunburned roofers and painters, and see the wonderful pictures of their progress, and hear of their heartwarming interactions with those they helped. As for our team, we were offsite, and so didn’t have that aspect to our experience. At the end of the day, however, with some of us already gone from our ad-hoc Ikea assembly plant, we heard the laughter of children and the calling of “Puppy! Puppy!”. Looking out we saw several boys and girls playing, a friendly dog frolicking, and a beautiful kite floating gently in the sky. Even as the kite soared, so did our spirits, despite our aching muscles. We were a part of a wonderful team doing great work for others. Individual efforts are fantastic—a single nightstand serves an important purpose. Combine that single effort with that of an inspired team—not just furniture builders, but power-washers, painters, roofers, and so on—and the outcome is simply amazing. And although the physical outcome of our collective efforts—the homes that we actually see–is great, the internal outcome that you can’t see—the expansion of our hearts and souls, the building of relationships, and the planting of seeds of hope with others—is even greater.

And I’m incredibly grateful to Prints of Hope, Tivity Health, and Health eVillages for allowing me to be a part of this incredible experience. And for enhancing my Lego-building skills.

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