As I go into my last week of working at Habitat for Humanity, I cannot help but reminisce on all the memories. I think of all the families, who I sat across the closing table from and passed them the keys to their new house. But those keys are just a tiny piece of the work, the families put in so many hours on the construction site, tirelessly bending nails week after week as they learn to wield the hammer better and better as the months go on. So many volunteers will come over the course of a year, over a thousand in fact just in St. Augustine. And all those volunteers get frustrated, because you can't learn how to hit a nail on the head in one day.
I went out to the construction site last week, on a Wednesday, in between meetings. I had a 9:00am meeting and a 3:00pm meeting. I swapped out my clothes and went to get sweaty in between. At first when I showed up at the construction site, I helped lay out the next wall that needed to be built while the volunteers put together cripples and window sills in a recently raised wall. After all the walls were laid out and there was nothing left to do but build walls, I grabbed my hammer and went to work, one of the volunteers came up to me and said, 'we get the feeling you're not a volunteer' and asked where I learned to hammer. Lots of practice.
I started to think about every house I ever worked on. I can't begin to name the homeowners or addresses of the Habitat homes I worked on in Mississippi, I think I started to keep a list once and I could find it in an old journal probably. But the ones that really mean a lot to me, are the ones here in St. Augustine. I can't think of one house that I didn't do something on, whether it was building a wall, shingling a shed roof, painting, or even just hanging house numbers. Everyone knows my favorite day is the first day, building the exterior walls, starting with only horizontal construction and leaving with vertical.
People have no idea how much horizontal work goes on before there is ever a stud stood up, but I get it one hundred percent, that vertical construction is the most satisfying. To walk away at the end of the day and no longer see just a plain concrete slab but the formations of walls that will hang family pictures on one day. Houses become a part of who we are, we move in our stuff and we set up shop, theres nothing like building your own house to make you appreciate those walls.