When was the last time you asked your best friend to carpool to Compton? For me, it was when Carmen and I decided to put on our work gloves and volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.
In case you haven’t guessed it, I’ve decided to devote the next few posts to adventures in “doing good”. Sometimes those adventures can be the most rewarding, and I’m here to give you a few ideas, starting with building a house.
We arrived at the work site early Saturday morning in Lynwood and signed up for window-building. Our “boss” was a retired carpenter named Vance. Vance assigned us different tasks, and we got to work. “Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?” he asked. He explained this was a quote from The A-team, which aired before I was born. Nonetheless, I was pretty excited to be on his A-team.
Our friend Erika revealed that she was experienced with the circular saw and slipped on some safety goggles like they were just a pair of reading glasses. Vance shouted out measurements, and Erika cut to order without even chipping a nail.
Carmen and I got to work toning our arms by hammering dozens of nails into window frames. Of course, Vance brought his own hammer called “The Stiletto”. Apparently, these are in stock at “Hammeroids ‘R’ Us.” And as long as you have a hammer in your hand, you’re allowed to say things like, “Nail me”, which means, “Please pass me a nail,” or “Nailed it”, which means, “You did good.”
Before we broke for lunch, Vance honored me with the nickname “Tall Machine,” which was based on my superpower to reach high places without a ladder. Then I graduated to power tools.
Missing finger jokes aside, Vance was a patient teacher and an admirable leader. He worked through lunch and never took a break. We offered him some water, but he insisted he was fine, just old. Thanks to Vance’s lesson in window-building, we contributed to bringing fresh air and sunshine into someone’s future “Home Sweet Home.” Windows present opportunities. As a 26-year old homeowner, I still can’t get enough fresh air and sunshine out of my windows. Owning a home is an opportunity to invest in the future like no other.
During our lunch break, two women who had qualified for the home-buyers program stopped by to share what it meant for them to own a home. For one woman, it meant having a proper place to care for her disabled father, who she’d been living with in a one-bedroom apartment for the last 30 years. And for the single mother who was working full-time and going back to school, home-ownership meant providing a safe place for her children to grow up.
On our way home, we happened to drive past the Vance Motel. Considering I’ve never met another Vance, it seemed fitting that his name appeared to us on a motel sign. As a man who spends his free time volunteering his expertise to building homes for the less fortunate, he certainly made us feel at home too.
Do Some Good: Go Back to 5th Grade