Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Habitat Build

I have long been a huge fan of Habitat for Humanity.  Those photos of President  Jimmy Carter helping lift a wall into place made it look deliciously fun.  And my church has wanted to help build a Habitat for Humanity house for years. Beaven and I especially thought it would be a cool way to learn carpentry. So many times our intentions overpromise what our skills can actually deliver. So we’re always looking for ways to learn.

We found a great opportunity to hone our carpentry skills when we worked at Presbyterian Disaster Assistance after Katrina. We got really good at drywall, a skill seldom used unless you're building a house or repairing a hole in the wall where you pounded your fist trying to understand the phone bill. One time we were on a crew that built a deck onto a lady’s house. We came home with just enough confidence to enlarge the deck on our own house.

So, it’s not sheer philanthropy we’re talking about here. Another thing is that I just love love being part of a team and being able to make something out of a stack of 2 X4s. Sometimes the fun comes from just hanging out with the kind of people who are willing to spend their day helping someone they don’t even know.

A friend once mused about meeting her daughter’s new boyfriend,  that she didn’t know anything about the guy. He was just someone she met on a mission trip. My answer to that was “What better place to meet someone with compassion and stamina?” If you meet a guy in a bar you get a guy who goes to bars. If you meet a guy on a mission trip you get a man with a heart and humility. The ability to fix stuff around the house is only iceing on the cake.

A couple of years ago I got a chance to work on a Womens Build for Habitat. It was held over Mothers Day weekend. You couldn’t have over 1% of your team be males. So we had a couple of token males but it was the chicks who did the majority of the work. We painted the entire interior of a three-bedroom house in less than four hours with this crew. 

And for once I didn't have any trouble getting a group photo once everyone realized the sign would hide our stomachs.


Then again this year we did the same thing to another house:  


Then a few months ago church finally signed on with Habitat.  We were part of what they call an Apostle Build.  That's when ten or more churches get together to build a house.  We scheduled two work days:  one in the middle of the week for the retirees or summer vactioners and then one on Saturday for the youth. There will be many other opportunities to work on the house.

Beaven and I joined the weekday group. And this time, instead of being relagated to painting, we got some real work.  Our job was to put up the siding on the back of the house. 

Here is the genius of Habitat:  They have a professional on the jobsite who can reduce a complicated job into small and simple tasks. One job was to cut plastic into strips of a certain size.  How simple is that?  Even the most incompetent person can do the job once the pro has explained it.  And they had planned the work so well that we were able to complete our assigned work within the time alloted.

Our job this day was to put up the siding on the back half of the house.


Most of us had worked together on other projects. I had worked with Freddie at PDA, with John in Mexico and with Louis at Gilmont.We worked steady and with few wasted movements.  It was a good crew:  relaxed but  no nonsense yet  not too serious; no slackers except for me. I played the little old lady card once in a while and went off to talk to interesting people and glean whatever insights I could find.

Part of our team was made of two women who weren't from our church but the community at large. One was getting in her "sweat equity" hours so she could get her own house.  And another woman was there with her husband simply because they enjoy the work like Beaven and I do.

Birds of a feather flock together and have a lot of fun. I look forward to our next flocking.

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