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July 23, 2011

Pull Up a Chair

Posted in: Pull Up a Chair

Growing family, house being built on friend's gift of land.

Something we’ve talked about here before are things we’ve gotten family involved in that worked out well.

The pictures I’ve posted are of a Habitat for Humanity build in Casa Blanca, Chilé. One of the things I’d wanted to do while I’m still able to – build a house or so for Habitat.   Very fortunately, it turned out that my son also wanted to, and could get time off to go.   We went to the Habitat site on the internet and agreed on one that he and I both could get away for, in Chilé.

There are a lot of things you’ve done together as a family, but most of them involve a situation where as a parent, you are in control if not altogether consciously. When we got together in Chilé, I was not the deciding person, and that was a pleasant situation. The group leaders were two young women who had experience in building, and in forming a group out of a lot of disparate people. That made for a good experience from the start.

People who come to build homes for the less fortunate, here in the U.S. and in other countries, have an inclination toward generosity, for the most part. However, they are different, and there will be conflict.  Thankfully, that was an aspect of forming us into a functional unit that I was glad not to be in charge of.

The flight into Santiago, Chilé’s capital, is awe-inspiring, coming into a mountain range and coast after the long trip. Arriving at the airport, I headed toward luggage and located the group by our similar hats and bandanas. We first got loaded into vans at the airport for Santiago, Chilé, and set off for the vineyard country where Casa Blanca is located. It was a fascinating ride through grand mountains. We came into the small and somewhat garden-like town, to a small camp of buildings where we’d be living, women in separate houses from the men. The stucco houses are mostly pastel in color, and citrus trees grew everywhere, with bright flowers decorating every yard.

Juan and Jose putting on the roof supports

The first day of the build, we got instructions in what the tools are called in Spanish. I’d never studied that language, so was glad to rely on my son, José, with his study and a background knowledge of it.  When we were hammering nails into boards to get started, I really began to realize how much I was going to rely on his building skills as well. Frankly, I should have done this at least five years earlier, since my strength wasn’t up to the heavier part of the work.  Our master builder and group captain at the build, Juan, had sized up his group, putting my son José at the harder tasks,  and me at the lighter end.   Call it skillful, if you like, but I got a lighter load.

There were two weeks in all, and as you can see from the pictures, up on the roof and putting up the frame are work that the young and able do best. Putting in the individual boards to a frame that’s been done by the stronger workers is the kind of task I got. We all worked together, as a group of about twenty people, and very little shirking happened. Most of the workers were young, and several were doing the project as part of resumé building, but no one was slacking off and we put up six and a portion of another houses in framework, altogether. Another, later, group, would be coming in to put up the siding and interior walls.

Fortunately, I have a son who gets a kick out of doing things for other people. That he can work with his hands helps, too. Working on something you are proud of doing makes a good basis for relationships, and we got to know each other pretty well.

Building a wall

Before the trip ended, I did have the pleasure of being told by several group members that at first they’d all anticipated a blowup between me and José sometime. That’s the nature of families they were familiar with. That we worked together without friction – and, I admit, without a need to dominate – was a pleasant surprise all around. We both were glad to have a time shared doing something valuable, and it’s quite possibly made a better relationship than we’d have had otherwise.

Enough about us! Have you had a project that you involved a child, or other family member, with?  Of course, doing something in service to others has unique value, and something we all want to share with ones we love.

If you haven’t tried a Habitat build, have you gotten into community service?  A food bank or soup kitchen is another possibility, as demi has found her son benefiting from sharing work with her.

While I probably didn’t give it a proper boost earlier, building a resumé is worth thinking about, as well.  I don’t need to tell anyone here that getting involved in work for other folks does good things for all of us, and is good to share.


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