An Unexpected Opportunity

My eyes searched the depth of poverty all around me, as I approached the area in Jacó, Costa Rica, where my husband Jason and I would serve for the week. The stark contrast between my home and the makeshift homes surrounding me jerked me into the reality of where I was and what I was about to do. This experience was far from my world of designing beautiful hotels. I struggled to consider what I could do to help these people in the short amount time I had with them.

As the week progressed, so too did my love for the “river kids” and their families. I was willing to do whatever was necessary to help, even if it was outside of my comfort zone. I’m not skilled in cutting hair; but, I could hold a small mirror so that children could see themselves after our team provided them with haircuts. I wasn’t strong enough to haul heavy metal posts or skilled enough to cut, weld, and construct new roofing from large sheets of metal; but, I could bless a boy with new tires for his bike – his only source of transportation outside of his community. 

And I could love. Hugs flowed freely.

Just as I was deeply contemplating how my skills in interior design could help a broken world, something unexpected happened. I met a man who had a vision for a school that could offer hope to the same children who had stolen my heart. His vision was rich and purposeful, and he needed a partner who could help execute his plans. He needed a designer. He needed someone like me. 

Design Does Make a Difference

JAI is passionate about design that makes a difference, and my trip to Costa Rica in June proved just how big of an effect design can make. I always knew design touched humanity through experiences and emotions. Yes, it has purpose and function, and has the power to change a mood or influence perspective. Yet, my time along the river in Jacó showed me that design also has the influence to turn someone’s life in a totally different direction.

In my VALUE PART 1 blog, I focused on the importance of investing in yourself and finding the balance between work and personal priorities. In doing so, though, we cannot overlook the undeniable value in investing in others—not for “what’s in it for me” but for “what’s in it to change others.”

When I feel a stirring to get involved in something, I happily extend myself to others. I call these opportunities my “Heart Projects”—because they capture my heart. Recently, I shared about my partnership with the new Harborside Chapel, a beautiful wedding chapel that will become a hallmark of commitment to strengthening and supporting marriages and families. Now, I am equally excited to discover more fully the doors that will open to give back to the people of Costa Rica.

The entire JAI team has a heart for serving others and influencing culture through our work. We do this every single day in our hospitality design, as countless travelers experience the efforts we put into each design decision that makes their hotel stay enjoyable. However, sometimes the value of giving to others comes to us in unexpected ways. Through holding a mirror to reflect happy faces. Or providing for a need that couldn’t be met apart from you. Or saying yes to an opportunity to get involved in something that meaningfully stirs your heart, whatever the sacrifice.

When we seek to serve others, we influence them, but ultimately we change ourselves. And that’s valuable.