It was 1993. Betty Smothers, a single mother of 6 children, dreamed of owning her own home. She worked tirelessly as a police officer until one night, while assisting a businesswoman with a bank deposit, she was shot and killed.
Only 2 days after his 18th birthday, Betty’s oldest son became the head of household for his 5 siblings. A great athlete, the young man was recruited to play football for FSU, and went on to become a first round draft pick in the NFL. The Associated Press even named him Rookie of the Year.
There’s much more to his football career, but that’s not what this story’s about. It’s about this.
He didn’t let the loss of his mother cripple him. Or let his athletic success change his character. Or let the burden of raising 5 children at such a young age derail him.
Instead, he took his mother’s unrealized dream of owning her own home and created a charity called Homes for the Holidays. HFTH, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, surprises single parent families with down payment assistance and fully furnishes their new home. Everything from furniture to linens to a fully stocked pantry.
To date, HFTH has helped make home ownership a dream come true for over 177 families and counting. Betty Smothers must be beaming from the heavens.
His name is Warrick Dunn. And I’m honored to call him my friend.
So when Warrick called to let me know that HFTH was assisting a divorced mom with the purchase of a home near where I live, I was thrilled.
On January 14th, I witnessed the joy and surprise this family received when presented the keys to their fully furnished new home. I heard two little girls squeal with delight at their bedrooms. I watched a single mother cry with appreciation.
How many of us take our personal loss and use it as a catalyst for good?
How often do we turn pain into power?
There’s always someone else at a low point in life. There’s always someone who can use our hand.
We’re taught as kids that it’s better to give then to receive. And scientific research provides compelling evidence to support this as true. Get this - giving to others activates the same part of our brain that’s stimulated by food and sex!
An act doesn’t have to be huge to be meaningful. You don’t have to give someone a home. You can spend the night with a friend recovering from surgery. Volunteer at a local event. Take a hot meal to your local fire station.
You also don’t have to help the minute you’re in your pain. Warrick started Homes for the Holidays 4 years after his mother’s death.
Maybe your act will be to show other women walking in your shoes that they too can get through their own divorce with grace and positivity.
Girl, I know you’ve got a lot on your shoulders right now. And you’d be more than justified for feeling caught up in the challenges life is throwing at you right now. But making a difference for someone else could be the very best way to lift yourself up.