Who are the People in Your Neighborhood

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Who are the People in Your Neighborhood 

By Marianne Lynch, Executive Director

On Friday, our staff took a day out of the office to gather at the Bridgeport site. We had a great time acting as volunteers, helping frame much of the third unit and some of the garage interiors as well. I personally love operating the miter saw and making the cuts (measure twice, cut once is always a good rule of thumb!) and since I’ve had a recent knee repair, I wasn’t much help at anything else. We have lots of moving parts these days operating four programs and a ReStore but still, it is always good to get back to our core and do some team building at the same time. As wonderful as these experiences are, Friday’s event was particularly profound for me.

Two home-buyers joined us to put in their sweat equity on Friday as well - Dustin, a vet injured in Afghanistan and Malak, an immigrant from Egypt who has lived in the US for more than 10 years. These two will be neighbors, living at 935 and 933 Green Street respectively. On Friday, the two of them framed the walls of Malak’s house together. I watched them throughout the day, methodically choosing wood, moving back and forth between the saw and the house, almost in a kind of dance of determination. They worked together quietly, with little talking, but it was clear that they were communicating with each other perfectly.  At one point, I asked them if they needed any additional help and Dustin told me that they both were skilled in construction and had a system down so that they worked very quickly together and clearly enjoyed each other’s company. 

As I was driving home that evening, I thought about what I’d witnessed. These men, who came to Habitat from two very different places, will be living side by side with their families in a matter of a few months. Looking forward to the time after home dedication, I realized that there will be this incredible bond between the two families that other neighbors never get to experience. They have literally built each others' homes. They will know each wall stud, each outlet and every floor board because each of them had a part in placing it there.  Through the home buying process, they have become friends and through homeownership, they will build a strong, diverse community.

 

Admittedly, I get a little choked up when I think about these families and how their lives are now intertwined and how, by the simple act of building, they are creating a foundation for their families to growth and also, the community of people who love and care for each other. At its very heart, this is what Habitat does best. Through sweat equity, it creates friendships that last a lifetime and a community that will endure. 

When I think about the phrase I hear so often in the news and on social media these days, that “we are more divided as a nation than ever before…” I think about these two men and how the single act of building a room can do more to bring people together than all the seminars and inspirational quotes ever could. This connection doesn’t just occur between home buying families, it happens every time volunteers step on to the construction site. They meet the families who will eventually own the home and sometimes, their idea of who that family might be changes with a single hammer blow or wall raising.

So if you are frustrated by the negativity clogging up your news feed or running in the background on your TV, think of these two men. You will see a very different world – one where people help each other build neighborhoods and communities, one where people who seem very different have the same goal in mind – a decent place to live.