Spring is for new beginnings. Cliche, okay, but it's the season whose whole purpose is building and growing, so this weekend I built and planted.
My work is helping to sponsor a house build through Habitat for Humanity of Orange County and as part of the sponsorship several of my coworkers and I volunteered at a build site on Saturday. We framed walls and hammered OSB and foam onto siding, and we raised one wall. At the end of our shift we all got lunch together and said, "That was great. Let's do this again."
There's something about building something together, of reinforcing camaraderie and community in the act of raising walls, of putting together something tangible. Now and for years to come there will be a house whose walls have soaked in our sweat, our energy, our nails and our muttered curse words at our lopsided hammering. We can drive down the road to see this house if we want to. We can smile at our handiwork, and take pride in building alongside the house's future occupant and owner and another future homeowner in the neighborhood working on his "sweat equity." At the risk of sounding self-congratulatory: We helped build this. We helped something grow.
There's a lot to be said for specialized labor: for workers who can put up walls within one day and who can finish a house within a couple months. But there's also something to be said of slow building, of pulling people together who have to acquire skills - a deft hammer stroke instead of quick keystrokes, or managing construction work instead of managing clinical projects. It makes me wonder back to the old "barn-raising" days when whole communities gathered to raise barn walls and then feast and dance and celebrate. Have we lost something by not going outside and building as a community? Have we lost something by secluding ourselves in our houses and only venturing out for an occasional beer fest or children's day at the park or a concert across town? If so, then we need to actively stay involved, to build each other up and invest in our communities.
It's simple rhetoric, but it's something repeated time and time again, a truth we all know, spoken in an abstraction that we can all agree on, but what does "invest in our communities" really mean? It could be volunteering for a local organization on some Saturdays or taking action in local politics or starting a new initiative like a skills-building group or a public works project or a community garden. It could be something as simple, ambitious, and well-deserved as building a house. Whatever it is let's remember this spring to take time to build together and grow together.
I'll see you out there.