The Secret to Happiness!

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DURHAM - The Herald Sun - By Blake Strayhorn

The secret to happiness….  It is not winning the lottery, at least not in my world.  But I think I’ve found it. I’ve seen enough people find it to become convinced. 

I’ve seen the discovery unfold many different ways, and for different reasons, under different circumstances. Regardless of how it unfolds, the result is so often the same. Joy. Deep gratification. Happiness.

Sometimes hitting a big life milestone is the impetus. A birthday, an anniversary, retirement. One’s faith organization - synagogue, mosque, church - celebrating its centennial, for example.


Steve and Betsy Levitas celebrated Steve’s 60th birthday and a big wedding anniversary by leading their network of friends and family in sponsoring a Habitat home built in partnership with the Jones family.  Steve said “without a doubt, sponsoring a Habitat home is the most gratifying thing we’ve ever done.”


Durham Rotary club celebrated its Centennial anniversary and honored the memory of Dr. Andy Barada, a beloved physician and loyal friend to both Durham Rotary and Habitat. The Yancey family is buying their affordable Habitat home in East Durham with a  0% interest mortgage. 

Sometimes it comes out of adversity. The loss of a loved one. In one case recently, the impetus was a church whose dwindling membership forced it to close its doors and find a new home. My friend told me she had been praying for some time before she realized that her old church and her new one could bond through a Habitat home sponsorship. They call it Finding Home – church members building a home in partnership with a hard-working Habitat family as they build a new church building themselves. Finding Home and building community together. How beautiful!

 All Saints

All Saints’ United Methodist Church welcomed the remaining members of Bethesda Methodist Church into its congregation by Finding Home. As All Saints’ Finds Home in a new sanctuary it is building, it is also building a new Habitat home - and community - in partnership with home-buyer Ariel Kay. Austin and Nona Fine are leading the All Saint's building team in East Durham.

Despite the different circumstances, there are commonalities. There is always a leader - one person stepping up, taking a risk, becoming a champion within their network of friends and colleagues. In private conversations, that person often shares that they asked themselves: “If not me, who? If not now, when?”


Fran Langstaff, a long-time supporter of Durham Habitat, is honoring the memory of her son, Glen, by sponsoring a Habitat home built in partnership with home buyer Julissa and her beautiful family.


The Feldmans and Stangers, long-time family friends, are celebrating their friendship by building a Habitat home in partnership with home-buyer Dan, a Veteran, and his lovely daughter Juliet.


Larry and Nancy Bumgardner used an inheritance to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary by building a Habitat home in partnership with the Capers family.   

The secret to happiness was clarified for me recently during an ice-breaker at a Habitat meeting. Each participant was asked to write a question and drop it in a hat; everyone then picked a question and answered it. One question asked:

“When did you first realize the secret to happiness is to spend a life helping others?”

I find myself thinking about that question often these days. “When did you realize” – no room to question whether serving others is a key to happiness, but when did you realize it? The secret to happiness in life… everyone wants happiness in life, so this is important, heavy stuff.  The meaning of life, in fact. And here it is – all we’ve got to do is help others!

I believe this is true, because I’ve experienced it too. I spent many years working for entrepreneurial growth companies in pursuit of a “life-changing liquidity event” so I could give back to my community, make the world a better place. I’ve been a team member on a very successful entrepreneurial endeavor, and been close to another, but I’ve come to accept I’ll never have my “life-changing liquidity event.” 

Through Durham Habitat, I realized I could change my life (without the “liquidity event” part ). And I feel like I’ve won the lottery.  

I’m privileged to see others make this discovery. Discovering the gift of happiness that serving others brings. I feel lucky that I get to invite friends to the Habitat experience as well.

Screenwriter and director Randall Wallace, who wrote “Braveheart,” among other films, said, "Habitat for Humanity is a perpetual motion miracle. Everyone who receives, gives - and everyone who gives, receives. If you want to stay complacent and uninspired, stay away from Habitat! Come close to Habitat and it will change you and make you a part of something that changes the world." 

I invite you to join Durham Habitat and find the secret of happiness! 

Visit our website at or call Roxanne (919-698-3910) or Heather (919-880-2432) to get involved.

“If not you, who will? If not now, when?” 

Habitat Success Stories

Barbara is an elderly neighbor who suffers from COPD. Durham Habitat partnered with the Fuqua School of Business to replace Barbara's roof and HVAC system. Barbara said,"I thank God that Habitat was able to fix my home because I was unable to do it for myself."