The first stop on our road trip was Hutchinson Kansas, to see our friend Heidi Mast.
We go way back, Heidi Mast and I. She and her siblings were some of the first friends I ever made through the internet, in the mid-to-late aughts. Then Amy went to Bible School with her, and they became friends, and subsequently Amy and I have told each other, “you know, sometime we should go visit Heidi Mast again.”
So we did.
Around 5 pm on Monday, September 17, we parked in front of Heidi Mast’s apartment complex and walked up to the front door.
“Is this where we go in?” I asked. “I thought I saw on Instagram that her apartment opens to the outside, but not to this porch. Maybe if we walk around the building we can find it.”
So we walked around the building, and yes, there was her porch, with its plants and orange chairs.
But through her half-open door I saw, not Heidi, but a man I didn’t recognize.
We knocked, and he opened it fully, sending out a blast of air conditioning. “Is this Heidi Mast’s apartment?” we asked.
“I don’t know, I just rented it off of Airbnb…”
“Oh, okay.” We hurried away, embarrassed.
Heidi wasn’t answering our calls or texts, so we just hung out on her front lawn, in the shade of the big tree. And then suddenly there was Heidi, rushing out of the front doors of the apartment complex. “I’m so sorry!” she said. “I was hanging mini blinds, and I could see you through the window but I couldn’t get to my phone!”
There were hugs and greetings. “There’s a strange man in your apartment,” we informed her.
“So, I didn’t tell you about this, but I figured you’d be chill. I decided to move upstairs. There’s better light for my plants. I’m only partially moved, but I’m renting out my other apartment on Airbnb this weekend, so we’ll have to sleep upstairs.”
We were chill.
. . .
I am convinced that most of the truly amazing people, the ones who are making the biggest impact on the world, are the ones you’ve never heard about. They are the ones actively listening to the needs of their own communities, and diving outside of their own comfort bubbles in order to provide it.
I look up to them. I want to be like them. Someday I’d like to write a whole book, celebrating the accomplishments of these people.
But for now, I’ll just talk about one of them: Heidi Mast.
See, okay. Walking through Hutchinson Kansas, you get the feeling that it used to be a prosperous little city with prospering little people, but those days are gone. There are rows and rows of lovely old buildings, rotting away.
But to Heidi, it’s all beauty and potential.
And that’s how she sees people, too.
Heidi told me that there’s a pretty big drug problem in her town, and when she started working with women, trying to help them get sober, hold down a job, get their children back, housing was a huge issue. Not being able to pay the rent, and getting evicted, just seemed to set off a negative spiral of events. So she decided that, when she moved out of her parent’s house, she was going to get a place with an extra bedroom in case someone needed a place to crash for a while.
Instead, she bought an apartment complex.
Yes, I am not joking around. An entire apartment complex. She rents out most of the apartments in the regular fashion, making just enough to pay her mortgage, and keeps one or two available to shelter struggling women, free of charge.
And it’s not just an apartment complex, it’s a beautiful apartment complex. A downtrodden place with hardwood floors and old windows and kitchens that open off of the bedroom. Charming. She does wonders with plants and pretty rugs and thrifted paintings, and your heart feels at rest.
Here is, for example, a snapshot I took of her upstairs apartment, half-moved into, containing no furniture except a table and a bed, and still looking lovely.
For more pictures, and far better ones, take a look at her Instagram.
So anyway, Amy and I spent a fantastic few days in Kansas. We hung out with Heidi and her friends and family, and walked around town checking out the thrift stores and coffee shops. Including one that had light fixtures made out of tea cups.
It was a very charming, enjoyable stay, though just a couple days long. Wednesday morning a few of Heidi’s siblings returned from a trip they’d taken to Iceland. So we squeezed in a last lunch at Heidi’s parents’ restored Victorian mansion, eating rice, curry, and yogurt salad, and listening to Iceland stories. Good times. But we had to move along to Texas before it got too late.
They gave us coffee, tea, and popcorn for the road.
We pulled away from the Victorian mansion, and out of the city of Hutchinson, and on down south, to Rosebud, Texas.