This blog was guest written by Habitat Wake volunteer, Diane Steinbeiser.
“Start by doing what is necessary
Then do what is possible;
and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
-St. Francis of Assisi
May the light of this holiday season reflect compassion, understanding and love upon you and your family.
I have the good fortune of working for the great state of North Carolina who believes in the value of community service – so much so that I have three paid days to provide such service. I decided to come into the offices of Habitat for Humanity, Wake.
My husband Bob and I have been involved with Habitat for over 20 years – initially as construction workers, then as ministry leaders for our church recruiting volunteers, working in the Restore, participating in Global Village trips to Honduras and Malawi, and this week: office work. Why? Why Habitat for Humanity? Why do we continue to give our time, our talent and our treasure to this organization? One word: Inclusiveness. Or another way to say it is through “the theology of the hammer” which posits that our Christian faith (indeed, our entire Judeo-Christian tradition) mandates that we do more than just talk about faith and sing about love, we must put faith and love into action.(1) And yet, I have found some people are turned off by this Christian precept of Habitat fearing that they may not be welcome if they do not share the Christian belief system. My experience is that nothing could be further from the truth.
In this time of divisive politics and polarized sentiments, Habitat provides an oasis of shared understanding of what needs to be done, “Our intention is to make substandard housing and homelessness socially, politically, morally and religiously unacceptable….We can find common ground in using a hammer.” We can find common ground using a shovel to dig the foundation or using a trowel to set the cornerstone and build the walls. We can find common ground by moving the line of poverty, metaphorically and physically as I experienced in Africa with the Malawian shouts of “chingwe mmwambo!” which means “move the line up” as we prepare to lay the next layer or bricks to set the walls straight. We can set the political climate straight by acting on our common shared belief that everyone deserves a decent place to live. Regardless of your faith life or lack of faith life, all are welcome at Habitat to pick up a hammer and swing it alongside your neighbor. All are welcome to apply for Habitat housing regardless of religious affiliation or lack of religious affiliation.
Building homes with Habitat is building community. We build community with a foundation of stewardship and service and friendship and understanding. I have hammered and sawed and painted and pounded and laughed and sweated and joked and cried while building homes alongside new, and soon-to-be, and want-to-be homeowners.
I have hammered and sawed and painted and pounded and laughed and sweated and joked and cried while building homes alongside others - Christians in the Apostles Builds, with Catholics in the Catholic Coalition Builds, with people from various faith traditions in the Interfaith Builds, and with individuals with no particular faith tradition at all - but with a genuine desire to serve.
I have made mud bricks, dug foundations and bent rebar in Honduras. I have hauled bricks, filled buckets with mud and laid bricks in Malawi. I have built walls for community. -walls which keep people together; not apart from one another.
This holiday season, I invite you to build of wall of compassion, inclusion and community. Find the time to volunteer at Habitat.
Pax et bonum: Peace and all good.
Theology of the Hammer, Pgs. 7, 8