Changing a Life:
My most Thankful Experience.

It was roughly 20 years ago and I was a real estate newbie. I had been assigned a relocation couple who was going to be transferring from the San Francisco area to Indianapolis as a part of the United Airlines move of their maintenance facility. Ping and Dao were an incredibly nice pair of customers to have but we had challenges. They were an Asian couple who spoke broken English at best and I was a clueless Hoosier who had little experience with people of different cultures.

Side note: I've learned since then that understanding and accepting diversity is not about being open minded, I'm embarrassed to say. It's about the actual experience of successfully interacting with and appreciating people of other cultures. Many of us in Indiana think diversity is simply not being bigoted. That's half the battle. Real understanding comes from true experience...not just saying you 'get it.' Those of you in HR are now free to have your heart attack after what I've just written.

They had an additional challenge that weighed heavily on their lives as well. They had recently lost a young daughter to a horrible illness. They were grieving and being uprooted from the only place they'd ever lived, California. Their family was giving them significant pressure to leave United and find other work out west. The opportunity they were being offered to move to the Midwest was in their minds the best for the two of them and their young son. That recognition didn't make it any easier.

We did a great deal of 'attempting' to communicate before that weekend they were to visit and make their home purchase. I understood they lived in a home that would be about $650,000 where they lived near Vacaville, California. It was to be sold or bought out by United after 60 days on the market so that Dao and Ping would be able to make the move and get settled on the right deadline. They wanted to be in reasonable proximity to the Indianapolis International Airport where Ping would work and in a home of similar value of what they were in. Sounded simple enough but with a major language barrier it was still an uncomfortable anticipation for both they and I as their trip neared.

On that Thursday I picked them up at the airport, took them to their hotel and waited patiently in the lobby while they got settled and came back down for us to begin looking for houses. I think we all had a headache trying to understand each other at the beginning but as time went on we worked through it. What happened that day is something I will cherish for all of my real estate career. As we drove up the driveway of the first home, they were engaged in a very animated conversation that I couldn't understand a word of. Ping looked at me before leaving the car and through great effort asked if in fact the price on the home was correct....that it was priced about the same level as their home in California. It was. He shared this with her and there was silence as we walked to the door.

We entered the foyer of the home as I wondered what was wrong...what had I done or not done? Almost immediatly Dao burst into tears. With her face in her hands standing in the main entry to our first house she couldn't control her gentle sobbing. I waited while Ping spoke with her in hushed tones. The next words, I presumed would be the order for me to take them back to the hotel. What Ping said suprised me. 'She's crying because she's so happy,' he explained. 'In California we live 90 minutes each way to my job in a 1700 square foot home on a 90 by 60 foot lot.' 'Here we'll be living in a home we could have never dreamed owning.' We'll have 2 1/2 hours more a day together as a family as my communte will only be about 10 minutes each direction.' 'We'll have a huge yard for our son to play in and be close to his school where we are far away from it now.' 'Our family told us we'd be coming to live in the middle of a corn field.' 'Instead we'll be starting a new life that we never could have imagined for it's quality.'

I was stunned. I couldn't have imagined their perspective. In all of their stress and pain, they recognized in the entry of that first home they had made the right decision. I felt incredibly humbled to be a part of that transition.

Today, their family has expanded by 2, their son is approaching high school and Ping has started a successful business outside of the airline industry. They are happy and content and having a quality of life they never seemed to be in reach of where they were before they moved to Indiana. I got to experience a true life transformation for a family that badly needed it. Every year when the calendar nears Thanksgiving Day, I think about that Thursday in Brownsburg, Indiana when Ping and Dao saw their new life. It's one I will never forget. It's the reason that through all of the pain of 2008 that I will press on in my chosen profession. The profession that allows me, on rare occasion, to play a role in the changing of a life. God bless you Ping and Dao...and may God bless us all in our country on this Thanksgiving week.