Monday, June 30, 2008

Words Work - Part 2

Continued from previous post.

Throughout the week, mornings were spent cleaning two of the chapter’s common storage areas that became ravaged by constant tool exchanging, innumerable small quantities of nails, screws, caulk and fixtures, and insufficient time. My imagination could clearly see tired volunteers dropping their tools on a late Sunday evening knowing what lay ahead in their own life—Monday morning. After a half-hour lunch of sandwiches and a minute to relish the sweat, aches and soreness, we drove to our work site which was the newest home. With its family already moved in, our job was to erect a chain-link fence and put the finishing touches on the shed in the backyard. Children scurrying around the yard, a dog sniffing our presence and conversing with other volunteer workers provided a perfect backdrop, and we both came to embrace the minister’s words in his sermon one year ago.

In the midst of my fence assembly, Carl, the oldest son of the home owner, asked if he could help. Using a post-hole digger, he and I completed our job in half the time. The concept of “sweat equity” is integral to the Habitat philosophy, part of the no interest mortgage that each owner contracts with the organization, and payable prior to moving into the house. It is truly amazing how volunteers and owners build these houses from beginning to end. The time, talent, commitment and coordination are astounding.

The best part of each day was finishing around four o’clock, driving to our B&B, showering, and walking to a nearby recommended restaurant. After dinner we found ourselves reading as long as we could stay awake and looking forward to tomorrow morning’s sumptuous, homemade breakfast.

It was all pretty simple, without demands or criticism, and, to a large extent, self-serving. In another world, living and working away from home gave us the opportunity to escape the complicated, everyday responsibilities that accompany headmastering and teaching. When the minister emphasized the rewards of giving, I suspect that his words and our summer work have provided memories that will last forever.