Sunday, October 6, 2013

33,315 Days Too Many

     On the first day of our Habitat build in the Dominican Republic this past July, our team was introduced to the future homeowners.  The husband and wife welcomed us with open arms, smiles that stretched well beyond their faces, and a delicious cup of coffee (and I'm not a coffee drinker!)  Around us, shy neighbor children quietly gawked at the group of Americans who had just arrived, and not-so-shy chickens dashed around the yard.  The house, pieced together with scrap panels of metal, had little besides a dirt floor, a few wooden chairs, and rubber soles from tennis shoes nailed to the sides (never learned why).

     Chitchatting, I asked how long the couple had been together.  My question led to lots of laughter, as they both said it was so long that they couldn't remember when exactly.  However, they could remember how....Many, many years ago, the husband became smitten with a then young village girl.  After a brief courtship, he rode his horse to her house and literally swept her off her feet, galloping off into the distance and to marriage.  They had been together ever since.

91 year old homeowner, far left, and his wife, center

     A little later in the conversation (a term I'm using loosely since my Spanish leaves a lot to be desired), the husband announced his age to be 91 and his wife in her late 70s/80s.  It took a few minutes for me to wrap my head around the number 91 (and not because of my poor Spanish :)  Ninety-one years translates to 1092 months.  This translates to 33,315 days.   The welcoming, generous man standing in front of us had lived with dirt for a floor and scrap metal for his walls for ninety-one years.  For 1092 months (or 33,315 days), he waited for decent housing.   It's almost impossible to fathom.  

     Needless to say, our team got to work!  How could we not be inspired?!  After the first day, the walls were up, the beams for the roof were in place, and the wife was sweeping a finished (cement) floor in her own house for the first time in her life.

     I've always been inspired by the resilience and determination of Habitat homeowners.  On that day, I was humbled too.  No one should have to wait a lifetime for a decent house, and certainly not ninety-one years. It's 33,315 days too many!  

     So here's my Sally Struthers' moment:  I encourage you to take some action...learn more about the need for decent housing around the world, volunteer with your local HFH affiliate or join me on a Global Village build, make a donation to Habitat (

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