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New homes

Their dreams were so big, but their budgets weren’t quite enough. 

There was the woman pursuing a master’s degree, dreaming of one day opening her own daycare center. There was the other mother, hoping to go back to school to earn her own degree. There was the kindergartner who was on her church’s praise team, who needed a stable place to live. There was the woman who wanted to show her young daughter that you can beat the odds, that anything is possible with God. 

Habitat for Humanity is a wonderful organization, and it chose a neighborhood in my coverage area to build dozens of homes. I got to cover those builds, in which ten homes were constructed in two weeks. It was called a building blitz. Those events were tons of fun. The neighborhood was cut into a steep hill, almost a small mountain. I’d park my truck at the top in a cul-de-sac, where there were no homes. From there, I’d walk past the new homes, their roofs littered with nail gun-wielding volunteers, others carrying furniture inside. The families that qualified to move into those homes would be working, too. They had requirements: to contribute three hundred hours of “sweat equity” and attend workshops on financing and budgeting. The mortgages came with zero interest. 

There was always a key ceremony when the work was done. Each house was dedicated and blessed with a Bible, and the new occupants would speak to the crowd, if they weren’t too nervous, or could push past the tears. Those moments were always chilling. Imagine a single mother with a six-year-old girl, working full time while studying for college tests, and still managing to cook breakfast, give rides to and from school, and help with homework. Adding a stable home to all those tasks lifted a huge burden on these people I saw weep in front of their new homes. 

After I moved on from the daily journalism grind, I decided to drive through that neighborhood, where I had heard that another building blitz had taken place. In that spot I once parked, there was a home. It had four blue columns, tan brick and a rocking chair on the concrete porch. It was nice, and I liked that this neighborhood seemed almost at capacity. I saw a boy outside in his pajamas playing basketball, because during the summer, there are no wardrobe rules. 

I left thinking about those struggles that most of those people surely experienced before Habitat for Humanity selected them for a new home. It couldn’t have been easy. Their tears proved that. I pulled out of the neighborhood and turned right. About a mile down the road, there was a church, its marquee board showing Isaiah 43:19. I looked it up on my iPhone. 

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Under that verse, there were these words: “A new day coming soon.” 

It could not have been more applicable.

Gary Lloyd is the author of five books: "Trussville, Alabama: A Brief History," "Deep Green," "Heart of the Plate," "Valley Road: Uplifting Stories from Down South," and "Ray of Hope." He has been a reporter and editor at newspapers and magazines in Mississippi and Alabama. He grew up in Trussville, Alabama, and graduated from Hewitt-Trussville High School in 2006. He earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from The University of Alabama in 2009. He lives in Moody, Alabama, with his wife, Jessica, and their two dogs, Abby and Sonny.

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