Pastor Tommy Barnett says many memorable things, but two are pertinent to this story. The first one is: If you want to make your life better, help somebody else improve theirs.
My response to Pastor Barnett had been, “Yeah, right, what do you want me to do for you?” My experiences up to that point was I’d volunteer and work so hard I’d come out of the situation physically, emotionally and socially bankrupt. I had given until there was nothing left to give and I didn’t have friends that were close enough to see the warning signs-until it was too late. I didn’t want to play anymore, so I’d take my ball and go home and take a long long nap and made a vow to hide better next time.
The second one he says is “Somebody can be your friend without them knowing you exist.” He goes on to explain that there are people in the world who are vital to him, that are not aware that he exists. I can say firsthand Pastor Barnett talks about some famous writers and key figures in our culture like he has day to day conversations with them. Whether or not these conversations are over the phone, via a blog or even a book I do not know. The fact that these people are important to him is irrefutable. I have been impressed by many people within our culture, but only a few have impressed me enough to even think about considering them personally important.
At a friend’s prompting I volunteered at a Habitat for Humanity site. In the time span of 4 hours my world changed, and I will say that Pastor Barnett is absolutely right! After spending what felt like a gazillion hours in the Arizona heat hammering dry wall for somebody (that none of us knew before walking onto the site) does a lot to change people. It was o.k. to be confused. It was o.k. that our shirts were soaked. It was o.k. to be tired. It was o.k. to cuss if the hammer hit our nail. So long as you hammered the nail correctly into the wall. And, the need to be precise was important because a couple months from now this is going to be some child’s bedroom. Having drywall fall when he or she hung that Shrek or Toy Story poster would not be a good thing.
We actually found it funny when the volunteer team leader tricked us into hammering a couple more nails after we declared ourselves done. Apparently his done and our done was different. It was that doing something for someone else that made the difference. He wasn’t being a control freak, he was trying to eek out a little more for a family that would appreciate it.
At the end of the day I found myself declaring people I never met before today my friends. They helped me accomplish something that would never have occurred any other place and it happened through pure encouragement. Moments like that and the people that help create them are treasure to me. And true to his explanation, it doesn’t matter if they remember me, I will never forget them.