I wanted to write something about this beginning for the past three weeks and now I fear I’ve passed the beginning.
Does the ground break when we’re ready, or does it break when it wants to, when it needs?
I sat in the white F150 on Lowry Ave at the light where traffic always builds up at 7:50am on weekdays. I reached over for my phone because I still was lost, still didn’t know the site was only one turn off Lowry onto Newton. I wanted my GPS to help me. Again.
Minneapolis was not supposed to be beautiful.
They say (whoever they is) fall is time for change. “It’s natural.”
But if people are making the change, is it?
Habitat for Humanity builds houses that hold people up. Whenever I get all caught up in whether or not I’m building something right or worrying about how few questions I can answer for the volunteers, I remind myself that I am enough. Simply being there to help and listen is enough sometimes. But I am always trying to do better, always asking questions, questions, questions and hammering in nails, bending nails, pulling them out.
One of the stories I tell myself about the past is that I chose this job for the truck. Each Americorps member is given one to drive to and from our work site each day.
One story I tell myself about the present is that I am in control.
Our volunteers on site do 90% of new home construction. They come primarily from large corporations which sponsor builds and send out work crews for anywhere from 2-10 weeks. These groups come in with a lot of energy because they get a day off from their office work to volunteer with us. The second largest group of volunteers are the regular crews who are mainly retired men who’ve either worked in constructino or who have carpentry experience from years of working on their own homes. They’re patient teachers and dedicated to their work. One guy, Larry, a retired engineer, has built several homes on his own and donated them to Habitat.
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
― Leo Tolstoy
This is scaffolding next to the second story of a house. Twin Cities Habitat frontloads fall builds so everyone can be working inside by the time the real winter cold comes around in November.
My work boots are my favorite shoes. For the first week they hurt my feet from standing all day. Now I’ve adjusted and they feel normal.
Turns out Jimmy Carter didn’t start Habitat. “The concept that grew into Habitat for Humanity International was born at Koinonia Farm, a small, interracial, Christian community outside of Americus, Georgia. Koinonia Farm was founded in 1942 by farmer and biblical scholar Clarence Jordan.
The Fullers first visited Koinonia in 1965. They had recently left a successful business and an affluent lifestyle in Montgomery, Alabama to begin a new life of Christian service.
At Koinonia, Jordan and Fuller developed the concept of “partnership housing.” The concept centered on those in need of adequate shelter working side by side with volunteers to build simple, decent houses…
In 1968, Koinonia laid out 42 half-acre house sites with four acres reserved as a community park and recreational area. Capital was donated from around the country to start the work.
Homes were built and sold to families in need at no profit and no interest. The basic model of Habitat for Humanity was begun.
The Twin Cities has one of the largest Habitat programs in the country.
I’m building homes in North Minneapolis, the bad part of town. My taxi driver who picked me up at the airport told me this neighborhood was the only dangerous part of the city. Our current lot on Knox Ave used to have a house which was destroyed by a tornado that came through the region a few years ago. After the tornado damage, the house was abandoned and torn down by the city. The city sold it to Habitat and a Hmong family of five or six will move in after we’re done building.
This is a picture of the mother/daughter combo who’ll be moving in.
“There’s a Buddhist story about a man galloping by a monk who asks ‘Where are you going? Ask my horse, says the man. And this uncontrollable emotion doesn’t let you pick your destination or even see it. It’s the simplest form of madness, one most of us taste some of the time.”
–Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost