Flipping houses or condos has become a huge business for contractors and TV networks alike.There are the disgusting ‘before’ images with dirty floors, broken cabinets, flower wall paper, and pastel colours. In contrast to the sparkling ‘after’ images showcasing all the latest and greatest improvements. One of the condos that I have flipped had been home to about 14 cats and one crazy cat lady.
Even though two bedrooms were used just for littler boxes, it seemed that the cats much more preferred to piss in the corners rather than in their boxes. However, with much care and sweat, the flip was a success.
I was able to remove the smell, doing a complete reno/makeover, and brought out the beauty that had been there all along. When I show the before pictures, people squirm at the foul images of yellow urine stained walls and swollen yellow baseboards - it’s like you can smell it by just looking at the photos. Then in an instant you switch to the beautiful after photo with finished floors, finished stone work, and a burning fireplace. Viewers usually gasp at the change because we all love the concept of something that has been abandoned, ruined, or rendered useless becoming revitalized and given a new life and hope.
After doing my share of flips, I found myself working in the slums of Dominican Republic and Haiti doing different kinds of makeovers. I am the Project Manager for a non for profit called Live Different. We work with the poorest of the poor - beautiful families who struggle with the basic needs of life like shelter, safety, food, employment, and health care to name a few.
I find myself in shacks, places that where I come from, we wouldn’t even put our garden tools in, let alone live in. These houses don’t suffer from ugly brass fixtures or 1970’s shag carpeting in the bathrooms. They are decrepit shacks that these beautiful people shouldn’t have to live in. With Live Different and the help of Canadian volunteers we do our best to give these families a new start. We don’t have a giant bus, or tv crews, or big sponsors that allow us to run up and down department store aisles throwing everything imaginable into the buggies, but what we do have is heart. Hand in hand with local contractors and the families themselves, we build new foundations, walls and roofs - a place to call home.
A place to be safe and secure, a place to grow up as a family and face life together. I still love the before and after shots. The first shot of the family standing with uncertainty in front of their weathered, broken structure, wondering why this guys taking their picture. Followed by the shot of the family with smiles from ear to ear with pride in front of their new home. Yet what everyone soon learns is that the beauty of the before and after isn’t found in solid foundation versus the old mud floor, or the well constructed roof versus the old rusted one filled with holes. The beauty of the before and after is found in the changed people. The beauty is found inside a struggling family who have been shown value, respect, and hope. The beauty is found in the lives of those who gave out of their overabundance in an honourable way, learning life lessons about what really matters in our short lives. The beauty is found in building relationships with people who have been placed in unjust situations, and yet face them with grace and strength. As much as I love granite counter-tops, stainless steel appliances, and leather sectionals, nothing compares to meeting and learning from those who struggle with so much less, and playing a small part in bringing a bit of hope into their lives. The beauty here is in those who dared to make a difference and then came out humbled and changed by those they’d ventured out to help. Pehaps your before just needs an after.