How the Strangers I Met at the Parade of Homes Inspired Me to Seize Every Moment and Go Camping More
Some mornings, I scroll mindlessly through my Facebook feed looking for the next big breaking story. What I usually find are photos of friends' kids, click bait, and "inspirational" memes. I think to myself, "Yeah, powerful stuff." I LIKE it, take a sip of coffee, and move on.
But, something that social media can't provide is truly moving personal connections. A few weeks ago, I was chosen to be a judge for the Southern Indiana Parade of Homes. My husband just built us a home so the chance to go into new builds and test my newfound knowledge of quality craftsmanship was very appealing. Little did I know that the people I would meet yesterday morning would impact my life.
When you are a judge, you are assigned a category of homes within a certain price range to rate. Three judges (two out-of-towners and one local) are escorted by a person who lives in the area and knows the community. The driver is not allowed to give opinions about the homes, though. I was in ushered into a big, beautiful, brand new GMC truck with two younger ladies and an older gentleman.
At first, we chatted small talk. Everyone was pleasant and talked about their kids, hometown, and the weather; standard stuff. But, then, the conversation grew a bit deeper. The other female judge was from northern Indiana and is a self-employed home designer. She began telling us about extensive travels with her nine-year-old son. What struck me was that these travels were not to the standard vacation destinations but she journeyed with her son to various state parks to camp. She told us about the magic of camping on the beach and waking up to the sounds of soft waves, and even road tripped 9,000 miles across the country stopping at parks to camp. Naturally, one of other passengers mentioned that it was so nice that her self-employment allowed her the freedom to take these trips.
She explained to us that several years ago, she married her high school sweetheart. And, only a few weeks into her first pregnancy, her husband was killed in a car accident. Now, she makes it her mission to live life to the fullest and enjoy every moment with her son.
I was in awe. It was one of those moments that make you stop and think about your own priorities and what you take for granted. Had I just chewed out my own husband for leaving his shoes out again? Had I become short with my daughter for dawdling that morning when I was rushing out the door? Do I spend every weekend scrubbing floors and grocery shopping? The answer to all of these questions was yes. She put these insignificant details of life into perspective for me.
The day meandered on and we looked at more homes (which are gorgeous by the way - check out the Parade Homes this week or next). We stopped at the Hornet's Nest for lunch. I ordered the grilled chicken breast and salad while the others enjoyed loaded fries and tenderloins. I noticed a small child throwing a fit a few tables over. As the mom of a three-year-old, we haven't yet mastered table manners but we have made it far enough that my daughter doesn't need 100% of my attention at the table. I made the comment that I love my daughter but I wouldn't want to go back to the baby stage again. (I still stand by this statement...)
Then, we all had another moment of self-awareness and a big priority check. The gentleman, who resides in Central Indiana, explained that he didn't miss the baby stage either but having grown children was the best thing in his life and is very much worth the tantrums and lack of sleep. He is in his third round of battling cancer and his daughters are his inspiration to keep going. He told us that in the end, your house and how much money you made in your lifetime doesn't really matter. It's the people you meet, and memories you share that make up your journey. He too lives his life to the fullest and seizes opportunities to enrich his time on earth.
I looked at this all as a small whisper from God. I was placed in a car with three strangers for six hours with not much to do chat about life as we drove from house to house. Two of them had remarkable and very painful experiences that taught them how to value each day. The third was a younger working mom, much like myself, who was also taking it all in.
I'm blessed to have met all three of these people. I encouraged the other female judge to chronicle her journeys on video blogs to inspire others with her story. I said a little prayer for the gentleman and his daughters. And, I hope to meet them all again on the Tree of Life. In the meantime, I'm starting to plan my first family camping trip...