Out of the holidays, a home

When you think of New York City’s Rockefeller Center at this time of the year, their famous Christmas tree probably comes to mind. It could easily be the most visible holiday tree in the world, because of its size (often close to 100 feet tall), its prominent role in many holiday movies, its presence in New York, and its annual lighting featured on live TV. But its most important role comes after the holidays, when it helps provide affordable housing for one lucky family each year.

Perhaps you’ve heard this story before, but it’s new to me. Every year for the past 9 years, the company who owns Rockefeller Center has donated the lumber from the Christmas tree to Habitat for Humanity for use in building a home. The lumber is marked with the year and “Rockefeller Center tree”. In addition, the company’s employees volunteer their time to work on the build, along with the family who will live in the home, transforming the Christmas tree into a safe and solid shelter. When these families celebrate their own holidays, in new homes far from New York City, they are surrounded by that glorious tree.

Habitat for Humanity estimates that one in four people worldwide lives in poverty housing. For almost 40 years, they have been building, rehabbing and repairing homes for people in need around the world. With the help of 2 million volunteers each year, they have served 6.8 million people in that time period, offering them hope and a chance for stability.

A lack of affordable housing affects people of all ages and races. The MacArthur Foundation is funding $25 million in research to determine what the impacts are, and how best to address the need. Their premise is that “affordable housing may be a ‘platform’ that promotes positive outcomes in education, employment, and physical and mental health…” In other words, if we address the housing issue first, other things may fall into place.

The French philosopher Gaston Bachelard once wrote, “If I were to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.”

So how does a Christmas tree live forever?  When it becomes a home, the platform on which dreams are built.

Wishing you peaceful dreams for the new year…

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