Lessons from the “Soon to Be” House on Park Street
Some of you have asked about the house I am building this summer. Well, not me exactly… but the house I am helping our local Habitat affiliate build as a way to celebrate my 70th year. This, of course, is not “my house” or “my build.” Soon, some deserving neighbor will call it home — after putting in hundreds of hours of “sweat equity,” they too will have the joy of a home with a manageable mortgage! Still, I am grateful for those of you who have made a gift so that this work could go forward this summer. Thank you!
IT IS GOING WELL! So much is happening so quickly. The construction manager Keith Hite is a marvelous teacher. (Keith teaches building trades at New Prairie High School.) And thanks to groups like the folks from Alcoa Howmet Corporation in La Porte, the decking was in place and so much more was ready for those of us who were volunteering. As a result, we are further along than we anticipated at this point. We are ready for the dozens of volunteers coming over the next several weeks. (Yes, you can come and help — just contact us at: LaPorte County Habitat website.)
It will surprise no one who has ever been a “Habitat Build” that there is always a great deal of laughter and lessons to be learned. My great joy was to work with Bill, Jim, Sharon, Carter, Mike and Suzie. Dozens more will help this summer. It was Bill who offered me two lessons on my first day as a volunteer.
Lesson #1: As we were beginning to put together the frames for windows in the walls, Bill looked over and asked “Did you pay for the whole hammer or just part of it?” I immediately started to laugh because I knew the old joke. I knew that it would be a good day. My teacher had arrived. “Hold the hammer lower and let it swing,” Bill said. “Use it like you own the whole thing!” That got us started talking and laughing. Bill was a marvel to watch and joy with whom to work.
I discovered that Bill had been a volunteer on over TWO HUNDRED HABITAT FOR HUMANITY BUILDS! He knew both Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity, and Clarence Jordan, Fuller’s co-conspirator at Koinonia Farm in Georgia. As it turned out I had known both Millard and Clarence as well, and so the morning was filled with stories of how they taught that the gospel should be viewed as a radical document — especially when it comes to how we live our every day lives. We spoke of the “theology of the hammer,” and how Christian action spoke louder than all our words.
Bill told me of his church in Michigan. He said Millard Fuller had challenged them to build ten houses in one of the early Habitat builds in Africa. The churches in town were asked to stretch, dream big, and raise $15,000 so that ten (10) houses could be built in Africa. It took a few months Bill said, but before long they did better than ten houses “We gave Habitat a check for $150,000 so that one hundred (100) houses might be built,” Bill said! Yes, the gospel should challenge us to think radically and big about our resources and how we use them.
Lesson #2: As lunch time approached and we were expressing gratitude for the volunteers who were by this time raising the front wall together, Bill looked at me and said, “You know, there is only one time I have seen any volunteer asked to leave a build site.” “When?” I asked. He said, “there was once a fellow who when asked to clean up a small mistake in a wall being built responded with the words ‘Why? this will be good enough for the type folks who will be living in this house.'” Bill said it didn’t take long for the construction manager to tell the fella to gather up his tools and not to return.
As to the fuller meaning of Lesson #2, I couldn’t help but consider the comparison with a leading political candidate who engages in racist statements, refuses to apologize and is still “on the scene” as a leader. Why doesn’t Donald Trump’s political party have the courage to say, “Leave and don’t return until you are able to apologize.” The morning paper today carries the powerful statement by Thomas Friedman entitled “Dump the G.O.P. for a Grand New Party.” (See: Thomas Friedman, June 8, 2016, NYTimes). Here it is, the “Party of Lincoln” saying, “Well, yes, Trump is a racist but we will support him anyway.” Amazing. I want to ask, “Are you going to use all of the courage and moral legacy you claim or just a small part of it?”
Thanks to Bill — for his life given to gospel realities. For me, these will always be treasured as my “Lessons from the ‘Soon to Be’ House on Park Street.” Let’s keep Building!