Getting on Board
“Total solar eclipse—Buenos Aires/Santiago,” “Cumorah Pageant,” “Mom trip,” “Watch for Service Opportunity,” and “Paris Disney/Temple” are a few intriguing 2019 entries on a white board that hangs on Steve (BS ’05, MAcc ’05) and Merissa (BS ’03) Hunt’s kitchen wall. They are a travelling family, and the Hunts regard their “vision board” as having a kind of magic to it, because 90 percent of the things they put on it come to fruition. The mojo doesn’t come from the Magic Markers used to write up the family’s yearly goals and aspirations, nor from a definitive process the family follows to make their visions real. Steve, an accountant and founder of CollegeTaxRefunds.com, can’t quite explain how it all happens, just that it does.
The Hunt’s vision board is a successful, ongoing experiment in intentional living. Steve has organized his accounting business so that the family could have the flexibility to travel together. Merissa, with a degree in early childhood education, homeschools the kids so that those plans aren’t constrained by district calendars. Steve runs CollegeTaxRefunds.com as an extension of his accounting practice and works part-time for SkyWest Airlines for the privilege of flying standby. But the vision that undergirds the family’s organization runs deeper than a calendar and opportunities for family fun.
This story began the way major life changes often do: with dissatisfaction. While at a regional accounting firm in Bozeman, Montana, during tax season, Steve recalls the awful feeling of having to call his wife, after an already very long day, and say “I need four more billable hours today. I won’t be home until 10 p.m.” Struggling to stay focused while spending so much time away from his family, Merissa pointed out what was bothering him. “You don’t like your job,” she said. She was right. And that led Steve to teaching at Montana State and BYU-Idaho, which he loved, and working for SkyWest Airlines. More importantly, Steve says, “I started realizing that I needed to craft for myself what my own life was going to look like, and started doing vision boards.”
Additional inspiration for the vision board and their unique path came at a Hunt family reunion in a Provo park, when screams for help came from a young woman stuck in the Provo River on the bank opposite the park. Everyone split up to find the most direct route there, and Steve prayed for help just before whacking his shin on a stump—not a propitious start. Steve arrived at the woman first, albeit in a haphazard, rambling way through the scrub. Search and Rescue teams arrived eventually and because the woman was too traumatized to be sent on a line over the river to the other side, the team fanned out to explore the best way to return. Steve was struck that the way they found to go back was exactly the way he had come. He saw his life analogous to that experience: he was reminded of how hard it was to decide what to do in college; of how difficult it had been to find a career path he liked; and of how often he and his family had moved (17 times in 17 years). “The existence of many twists and turns in the path doesn’t mean it is the wrong choice,” he says. In fact, as he and Merissa consider the fruits of their choices, it seems now, on the other side of so much ambiguity and indecision, that they have indeed found their way.
One item on the Hunts’ vision board was giving away thousands of dollars to needy individuals, but how that was going to happen was a mystery. In the meantime, Steve’s tax and information systems experience led him to create CollegeTaxRefunds.com, which helps college students receive a little-known and very difficult-to-calculate refund available to college students. Soon, Steve’s site was helping countless students, struggling on low incomes, to substantially improve their financial situations. Without realizing it at the time, Steve had created a tool that met his own family’s goals and helped meet the needs of others at the same time. CollegeTaxRefunds.com became a powerful vehicle to stay focused on developing and realizing the family’s aspirations.
The Hunts trust that God knows the path forward— no matter how roundabout it appears—and that God usually trusts them to choose the path forward. The family prays about the things that go on the vision board. Steve says, “I tell myself, ‘[My life] doesn’t have to happen my way. I just present to God the things I think we want to do, then allow Him to take it from there. He’ll either allow me to do those exact things or tell me whatever else it is He wants me to do.’”