Aside from my family, there are but a handful of people who have made a profound impact on my life. Sure, I admire many people and aspire to be like them, but there have been a few times when you meet a person and you just know that you were meant to cross paths. Millard Fuller was one of these people.
I learned about Habitat for Humanity in high school and helped out with a few builds in the Northeast with Church people. In true Rory fashion, I had just had tips put on my nails (Junior prom, maybe?) and I remember admiring how good my hands looked while cutting wood planks for the deck we were adding to the townhouse. I was drawn to the concept of "sweat equity" where the future homeowners are required to spend a certain amount of time working on their own house and on other houses... clearly these families couldn't afford to buy a house a traditional way (ie taking out a $100k+ mortgage), but I admired the concept that they would pay for it in giving their time and energy. Habitat isn't in the business of giving a "hand out," but rather a "hand up." To this day, and obviously after years of ruminating on it, these concepts have helped shape my perspective on life and my work.
When I had the opportunity to go on Elon's 1st study abroad trip to Guatemala (working with Habitat), I jumped at the chance. Part of the trip was spending a week in Georgia at Habitat Headquarters and working on houses in a nearby town and the rest of the trip was spent in San Marcos, Guatemala working on houses there.
When we arrived in Americus, I had no idea we were about to meet the founder of Habitat, Millard Fuller, and his wife Linda. The anxiety and excitement were palpable and I couldn't pick a single coherent thought that would convey my admiration for his work and philosophy on helping others. Luckily, our first meeting in the office wasn't the last time we had with him... he was also at church that Sunday in Plains (to attend Jimmy Carter's Sunday School lesson and the following service... which was also very cool, but a totally different story!) and then lunch at a country kitchen nearby. We went to the collective peanut farm, Koinonia, where he found his inspiration for Habitat... I have goosebumps thinking about it now.
Spending time with Millard, and others on the trip and at Habitat, gave me confirmation of something I long-suspected... that regardless of how much you think you have (or lack), you have enough to help someone out. I know that's not the most profound thought, but I think we (atleast I) tend to take life for granted and forget that there are always others who could use some help.
When I read about Millard's passing this morning, my heart just sank... he will be missed, but his legacy will live on for quite a long time... and isn't that the best you can hope for!?
A few photos: