I am concrete, detailed learner, so playing around and figuring things out on my own does NOT work for me. I need a lot of hand-holding and specific step-by-step instructions. Naturally, I am drawn to classes, manuals, and the “watch others and imitate” method.
One day when I was researching local classes online, I browsed the Habitat for Humanity site and clicked on “Volunteer”. There under the list of events was a special day designated as “Women Build.” This seemed like a great opportunity to pick up some handy-woman skills, at the same time do something nice for others. Win-win!
I was a bit naive about what Habitat for Humanity was all about. I thought it was something that you did on a church mission trip, driving to the Appalachians for a month and building one house in the middle of nowhere. In reality, there are Habitat homes and developments almost everywhere, often in the middle of developed cities and neighborhoods. Chances are there is one within 30 minutes of you.
It was an interesting day and I met a lot of really nice people. However, there was a lot of standing around. I’m sure the site managers are used to their regular volunteers coming in, picking up their tools, and getting to work without needing many directions. We, on the other hand, were a room full of women – many first-timers – who had no idea what to do or how to do it. I learned that to fit in at this particular site, you need the confidence to step right in and not wait to be told what to do (definitely not my strong point).
But there were a lot of things I did learn on my first day of volunteering for Habitat:
- Drilling a concrete drill bit with an impact driver into the concrete foundation of a house makes your entire body shake for 15 minutes afterward.
- Carrying insulation in shorts and a t-shirt makes you itch. A lot.
- Snakes can pop out of dirt piles at very inopportune moments. There are no pictures of this because I was too busy running away and screaming like a 6-year-old girl.
Most of all I learned that Habitat does not give their homes away, but sells them to hard-working and deserving families who, for one reason or another, have fallen on hard times and truly want the opportunity to turn their lives around. They have proven employment, attend classes on financial management, and are required to log hundreds of hours volunteering with the construction of their own home and others. On the day I volunteered, there was a Habitat couple there who are homeowners in the community. They met their hourly requirement MONTHS ago, but still show up every weekend to build because, according to the husband, “I can’t sit on my couch looking out my window at other people helping when so much has been given to us.”
I also learned that giving back is about so much more than showing up on a worksite for a few hours one day and hammering a couple of nails. I’ve got a long way to go before I can say that I’m a committed volunteer, but I’m looking forward to going back.
And next time, NO SNAKES.