“A society grows great when old man plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” – Greek Proverb
Years ago – in the throes of infertility treatments and the resulting despair – I remember standing in our old kitchen and telling my husband that I didn’t really care about doing a single thing for anyone else. It should have been a sign that my inner compass was tragically askew – especially for me, a neurotic and hyper-sensitive nerd who at the age of 9 had typed up a challenge to the rest of the world encouraging peace and environmental awareness.
But I was all used up and just WRONG all those years ago when my want for a baby overshadowed everything.
Fast-forward about 7 years. I can honestly say, I have been humbled. God has worked humility in me through the amazing men and women who I work with at Habitat. What was once all about ME – my pain, what I wanted, what I needed, what I thought I deserved – has been turned outward. There is something about these people who do all the real work at Habitat – the volunteers – that brings me to my knees in praise and humility because they are all people who have decided that they wanted to take the light God planted in each of them and turn it outward so that it can shine on everyone else.
I have volunteers at Habitat who are 80 years old, 85 years old, and 90 years old. The majority of our volunteers are age 70 or over. Many of them are veterans, some are disabled. The majority of them probably vote differently from me in every election we have. And you know what? I love them. And they love me. They are not luxuriating in their retirements. They are out in 107 degrees and working in a warehouse to raise money to build Habitat homes. Or they are out working in 107 degree weather to actually build a Habitat home. They are, if Teresa of Avila would allow me, the hands and feet of Christ.
In May I marked six years at Habitat – six years since I walked away from a safe state job and good retirement and health insurance to take a chance that the little girl who’d typed up her manifesto so many years ago was still alive inside of me, and that she could be revitalized in the midst of her despair. Now I can say that I owe the strength of my faith to my Habitat family, because when my faith slips, I see Christ in them. They are each of them working miracles every day – in themselves, in the people they serve, and in me. C.S. Lewis (how I love, love, love him) once wrote:
“When I first became a Christian I thought that I could do it on my own… and I wouldn’t go to churches… I disliked very much the hymns, which I considered to be fifth-rate poems set to sixth-rate music. But as I went on I saw the great merit of it. I came up against different people of quite different outlooks and different education, and then gradually my conceit just began peeling off. I realized that the hymns (which were sixth-rate music), were, nonetheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic-side boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit.”
On my birthday two days ago, as I fretted at my desk over fund raising and various work issues, I heard a shuffling of feet behind me and turned to see about six dudes in Habitat shirts – volunteers – crowd into my office. And they serenaded me with “Happy Birthday” – reminding me once again why I work where I work, and that there are other benefits in life besides health insurance.
“I think our real doctrine is that doctrine that is born out in our character. I think you can profess the Apostles’ Creed until Jesus returns, but if you don’t love somebody, you never were a Christian.” – Rich Mullins