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April 29, 2010, at 9:16 am — Uncategorized

HABITAT FOR HUMANITY

A few weeks ago I got an email from an old friend, actor and philanthropist Lukas Behnken. He wanted to get a group of his friends together to hang out. But Lukas wanted to do something more substantive than just grabbing some drinks and more permanent than say seeing a movie. He wanted to build a house – well a habitat for humanity. And how could I say no?

Now I wanted to. I wanted to say no. Let’s be clear. I am, what some would call, not a morning person. In fact, I ended up not sleeping at all the night before – partly out of general inability and partly out of excitement. While lying awake I imagined showing up to an empty lot the next morning and with hammer and nail assembling some sort of pre-fabbed dwelling and was deeply concerned that I would put more holes than nails in whatever we were to assemble.

My preconceptions were wrong. And I didn’t use a hammer once.

It was April 6th and shortly before 8 AM as I drove the short distance from my own home to Glendale, CA’s Kenwood Street where I would meet up with Lukas and some of his friends.

What I saw when I pulled up surprised me. It wasn’t an empty lot.

And it wasn’t some snap together pre-fab.

And it was nearly complete. In fact the families move into the units in June.

The buildings resemble condos or town homes – two main stories and a lower garage level. One set of units even has a private elevator as the one of the occupants uses a wheelchair. Even though the buildings are built out of donations and with volunteers there is nothing about them that would make you think they were built cheaply or for those in need. Perhaps that’s the part that deals with humanity – these are homes to be proud of. In fact the families themselves have to spend several hundred hours helping to build their own homes.

There’s nothing like a day’s hard labor to stretch your understanding…

Our task handed down by the site’s Habitat for Humanity site manager would be one of a lot of lifting, a lot of sweeping and some calking. Okay the calking was easy and yes ripe with jokes but let’s talk about this lifting….

One of the first things required of the group of volunteers – 12 in total – was to load several wooden planks and metal frames left over from some scaffolding onto a truck. The priority was to prepare the site for upcoming inspections. As we started loading these deceptively heavy planks (I say deceptively because I am out of shape) something kind of magical happened….without anyone saying anything we started working together…as one unit. A silent rhythm.

After the planks came some cleaning of the actual units. The carpet was about to go in so we had to sweep out all the dust and clean up the base boards and just generally wipe everything down. There is something wonderfully zen about sweeping.

After that some more lifting – this time metal rods used for concrete and then a short lunch and some final touches on the units. Six hours of work.

Six hours and it was only 2:30 when we finished. Amazing what can be done when people come together.

I’m glad I said yes to Lukas – the entire day put an entire year in perspective and it opened my eyes to an organization that truly understands the need for humanity.

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