I get bored easy. They told me I would miss work, haa. I haven’t been bored yet. Retirement is not only about the things you don’t have to do anymore (ie commute in traffic, go to stupid meetings, smile at your boss), it’s about doing cool things you want to do as opposed to all things you had to do. One of the things I like to do now is Habitat-for-Humanity. It’s like watching/helping someone’s dream take shape.
Building skills aren’t as necessary as are gloves, a sense of humor and a good work ethic. Steve, our construction manager, is patient and a born teacher. It’s a good thing, since on any given build-day he may have talents ranging from experienced builders to those who couldn’t tell the difference between a screwdriver and a hammer. Somehow everyone seems to be busy.
My jobs have included shoveling snow, mixing cement, building forms, cleaning up garbage, installing trim and listening to stories from one of my new co-workers. The really skilled work, like plumbing and electrical are contracted out. That still leaves 90% of the work to be done by volunteers. Luckily, there’s a core group of people, mostly retired like me, who are regulars and have good building skills. They used to be police officers and railroad workers. Now they are roofers, carpenter’s, etc.
Over the past year we’ve been working on four houses. It all starts with a hole in the ground. Once the hole is dug, you jump in and start building foundation walls and installing re-bar. When all is done you end up with a poured foundation. Its like eating an elephant, one bite at a time.
A foundation isn’t much to look at, but it’s a giant step forward from a hole in the ground.
Weeks and months go by. Pandemics make volunteers stay away. Working in a mask sucks. Winter dumps snow, not to mention cold. Summer heat is probably worse than winter cold. I mean, you can only take off so much and still be welcome. Despite the challenges the work goes on, one screw, one board at a time. You keep showing up and doing whatever is assigned and then one day you show up and it seems where there used to be a hole is now a house. You park your truck, look at the house and say: I helped do that, cool!
Now it seems like things move along faster. Siding, windows, trim, a roof and you have a house. The next week you show up for work and the dry-wall is installed. Rooms have taken shape from the studs you installed last summer.
One day I worked alongside the future home owner. These homes aren’t a give-away, home owners are required to put in 400 hours work minimum. The future owner of the house we were working on is the single parent of a couple of teenagers. He’s a hard-working local guy who could never afford the home he is helping to build. We mixed cement for his front walk and he talked about how grateful he was. How it was hard to be patient with all the set-backs this past year but it was finally coming along. We poured the last shovelful of concrete into the form and smoothed it all out. We both took a step back and looked, it was coming along. Not just the house, but this family’s dream.
How cool is that.