I am often asked why I got involved with SHP. After five years of building and delivering bunk beds to children, it is a question I genuinely appreciate being asked. It forces me to remember why I dedicate my time to this wonderful cause of helping ensure that No Kid Sleeps on the Floor in our Town. Here is the story:
In December 2012, my close childhood buddy, Luke Mickelson, posted on Facebook that he and his family were going to sacrifice a portion of their Christmas to build bunk beds for children in need. Like many of you, I read posts on Facebook each day about opportunities to serve others. But I’ve never had a post have an impact on me and my emotions like this one did. I immediately called my wife, Heather, and let her know I felt strongly that we needed to drive from Boise, ID to Twin Falls, ID and help with this project. My wife was 7 months pregnant with our fourth child, and, with three young children excited for the quickly approaching Christmas holiday, we plenty going on in our own lives. Yet I couldn’t shake the nearly overwhelming pull to go and help. So, with the support of my family, that’s exactly what we did.
The next day we found ourselves in Luke’s garage listening to 80’s Rock, covered in an itchy mixture of sawdust and wood stain, piecing together structures that we hoped would pass as bunk beds. Though these beds were simple, we knew they were also functional, even if built by a rag-tag group of amateurs. I was having a great time building beds with close friends and family, but I didn’t see or feel that this experience we were having was anything more than a fun wood working activity. I hoped there would be more to this experience.
After letting the stained beds sit outside overnight in freezing conditions so the wet, sticky stain could set up into a frozen, sticky stain, we loaded a couple fully assembled bunk beds into the back of Luke’s truck and, with bags of donated bedding and toys, headed down the road for our first delivery. My emotions were a mixture of excitement and apprehension. I was excited to have built a bed that was going to be used to bless the life of a child. But I was apprehensive at the thought that there might really be a child currently sleeping on the floor. It was, frankly, a hard concept for me to wrap my mind around. I found myself dealing with an internal mixture of shame for what I didn’t know and gratitude for what I had been blessed with in my life when we pulled into the driveway of a very old and rundown home.
We were cautiously let into the home through the front door by a single mother of one beautiful little girl. Though the mother was young, her eyes told a story that involved many years of struggle and heartache. The first thing I remember as we walked into the door was a small kitchen off to my left. There were no chairs or table. No furniture or appliances of any kind save a small hot plate on the floor with a can of Spaghetti-O’s half eaten. My heart literally sunk when I saw this. I didn’t have to see anything else to know this was a family in need. All the apprehension I had felt earlier on the drive to this home vanished. I knew we were there to help. I knew we could help. And I knew that when we left, we would leave this family better off than when we found them.
The next 30 minutes consisted of Luke and I trying stubbornly to maneuver a bunk bed through an entryway that was built with one purpose in mind: keeping assembled bunk beds from entering the home. After the white flag was raised, we detached the side rails from the head boards and easily walked in the pieces of the bed through this empty home and into this little girl’s bedroom.
As the father of three girls and one son, I have a pretty good idea of what a child’s bedrooms should look like. But what I saw in this room was completely opposite of what I expected. There was nothing. Nothing except a small pile of cloths in one corner that had been arranged in what can only be described as a nest. It was where this beautiful little girl slept. It was her bed. On the floor. No toys, no pillow, no mattress…nothing. I was once again reminded about why we were here.
We managed to keep the little girl out of her bedroom long enough to reassemble the bed and move it into one corner of the room. From my perspective it was simple. Nothing special. A few boards and screws positioned just right to make the frame of a bunk bed. Some sheets and blankets arranged as best we could on the bed. A couple donated soft and clean mattresses. A new pillow and pillow case sitting on each mattress. A simple little bunk bed.
But in the eyes of this little girl as she came into her bedroom and saw her brand new bunk bed for her first time, it was her new palace and she was the princess. To this day I have never seen a child hug one of our beds. But at that moment this precious little child latched onto that bed with all she had. It was all hers. Likely her first bed. And, in her mind, it was perfect. It represented safety and security, dignity and opportunity, and a sign that things were going to get better.
After many hugs, thank you’s and pictures taken, we grabbed our drills and walked past an empty living room, past a half-eaten can of spaghetti-o’s and back to the truck. It was a somber moment. But it was also a happy moment. We had made a difference that day. Something as simple as a bed had quite literally just changed lives…mine included.
I have delivered beds in hundreds of homes since that day. But I don’t remember those homes the same way I remember this one. This delivery is why I am involved with SHP. I realized how important a bed is to a child that day, and I knew there was more I could do to help. Five years later, and I still love delivering beds to children. And though each home is unique, there is always a familiarity with each situation that takes me back to my first delivery.