God’s timing is perfect. I don’t have time to read many books of choice during the school year, and I am not even sure where this book came from. But on the first day of fall break, I opened Jeff Goins’s The Art of Work, A Proven Path to discovering what You were Meant to do. The book opens with scripture from Matthew 22:14 Many are called, but few are chosen. Goins asks big questions like, “What would you do if you could do anything?” “What will you regret not doing?” and “What do you wish you spent more time on?”
In order to answer these questions Goins outlines seven common characteristics that reveal the theme in people’s lives.
To know yourself, you must learn to listen to your life by being disciplined at awareness.
Most weeks I start the day with morning carpool, attending meetings with brilliant and passionate people, observing creative and dedicated teachers, sitting with curious and kind students, and meeting with engaged parents – all of whom want to talk about learning, achievement, and creativity. Most weeks, I could practice awareness and walk away with a consistent theme. This week, however, was different.
This week I was flying from my 1200 sq. ft. apartment in Buckhead where i live alone to Reynosa, Mexico. There I would be camping out in bunkrooms above a medical clinic in order to build two 12×20 ft. cinderblock homes for two Mexican families of five or more.
I learned a little before I went on this adventure. I learned that the Mexican sewage system can’t handle paper; so all toilet paper must be discarded in the trash cans. I learned that Mexico has different parasites in their water, so Americans get sick if we drink it. I learned that most families must choose between running water or electricity because they can’t afford both. How aware am I of my blessings?
When I arrived, I heard devotion after devotion of people sharing about how the Scriptures call us to serve, how hearts are changed, and how love is spread. How aware am I of the needs and the opportunities around us?
When I begin digging dirt and gravel to make cement in a hole in the ground, I learned more efficient ways to dig and scoop. Mexican women taught me to use primitive tools shape rebar into triangles that would support a roof. Mexican men taught me how to sling buckets up a homemade scaffold, and how to repurpose my trash to fill holes, scoop, and mix. I learned a few words and phrases from the children that wanted a biblia, a lámpara, balón, and dulces.
As “mud” from the cinderblocks fell of the sides of the house, it was my job to scoop the drops up and make sure no cement was wasted because we had no más. Did I know what I could learn from people with whom I don’t share the same language? Was I aware of how much I needed other people when tasks because hard and buckets grew heavy. Did I think I could share so many smiles, laughs, and hugs with people I will never see again?
The week was hard. Relatively. We were exhausted at night and sore the next morning. We could not easily refill our water bottles. Showers were cold; soap was scarce, and we were locked in our compound every night, not allowed to go out into the streets for fear of murder and kidnapping. Everyone in our group took a week off of work and had no access to Internet to catch up on things along the way. People missed their families, familiar food, and a weekend of SEC football. But for us, it was a week. 7 days. For our Mexican coworkers, this wasn’t a mission trip; this was life.
We prayed, ate, worshiped, and worked, hand in hand – Mexican. American. Mexican American. The people were clean though their city was trashed. The families were big though the houses were small. We built a home in a garbage dump, a squalor. We bathed in troughs just to keep the concrete from burning our skin. We sang in Spanish and in English, “This is the day that the Lord has made!” We held hands every time. Mexican. American. Mexican. American.
On the day of the house dedication, we praised the Lord that two more families would have a home. A safe place to raise their children, a roof over their heads, a door and two windows. They were so grateful. They were so joyful. We rejoiced and were glad in this, yes/and tears flowed and flowed.
The families killed their livestock and spent every peso they had to prepare us a meal of gratitude, a thanksgiving feast. They were so generous. They gave all they had.
The week was short. We worked a half-day on Friday to try to finish one more roof. We showered quickly, packed what was left of salvageable clothing, then headed back to the border. We drove five miles. Count those: one, two, three, four, five miles back across the border to the land of plenty. That drive was short. I needed more time to process all that I had seen, heard, smelled, touched, and tasted. I needed to reflect, to pray, to plan.
I don’t know yet how this will impact my life, but I know it has brought much perspective, awareness, and appreciation.
What would you do if you could do anything?” “What will you regret not doing?” and “What do you wish you spent more time doing?”