I spent yesterday morning helping Habitat for Humanity working on a house. I mainly helped insulate the attic while two other girls worked putting tile on the stairs. The whole time I couldn’t help but think back to the day I helped work on a house in Rwanda, except it looked extremely different. The most high tech equipment available were shovels and bags. We moved huge rocks down to the house, as well as walked up to a hill where someone would shovel dirt into our bags and then we would carry those bags back to the house where it was ultimately going to become mud/clay to act as support. As a person who strives to find the most efficient method for everything, I couldn’t help but think how much of a difference even 1 pick-up truck would make. We could have loaded all of the heavy rocks in the back and driven it right by the house and then gone to the hill and filled the back up with dirt. It would have made the job much easier and get it done much quicker, and that would have been just 1 truck.
Flash forward back to yesterday and I found myself shoving insulation into a machine that broke it up and blew it out of a tube and onto the walls (or something like that). As I was doing that, one of the workers was using a super expensive electric saw to cut the tiles perfectly and the two girls were using fancy staple guns to put the tile on the stairs. All around me was countless materials and technology nonexistent the day I built the house in Rwanda.
At first I felt sympathy towards all of the people whose lives are so much more difficult just because they can’t get access to the technology (among many other things) that would simplify their lives instantaneously. Then I thought about how lucky we are in America that we take so many things for granted. Again, not just the easiness of having nifty apparatuses to build houses, but basically everything we could ever have is at our finger tips and so many people don’t recognize that. But after this thought I realized I had missed a fundamental analysis between these two experiences: I had only looked at the differences. In my mind when I first started thinking about this, I did the stereotypical thing Americans do and give pity to the third world; I immediately recognized what we had and what they didn’t. It didn’t even occur to me to think about if there were any similarities to my experiences at all. And as my mind started going down that path I realized there was one key fundamental similarity to both of these days: they both had support of the community.
One of the most amazing things I observed in Rwanda was the power of community. I was absolutely amazed at how many people came out to support this one woman in the building of her house. Men, women, and children of all ages gathered for support, encouragement, and help. They completed the task with exponential joy, love, and zero complaints. They worked endlessly — way more than me or any of the Scottish people I had come with. It blew me away. During that day I grew angry at America because I didn’t think that this would never happen there. What I failed to do was realize that support for a community looked different; the whole community usually doesn’t pull together all in one day like they did in Rwanda, but they most definitely do still come together — -I was at the Habitat for Humanity house being a leader for our Super Service Saturday (which this program in and of itself massively impacts community) trips Kent leads every week. The worker we were with had talked earlier about all of the other clubs and sports teams that had been out to work on the house and had talked about how other members of the community were coming to help as well. Additionally, he explained one of the requirements for people to get a house from Habitat for Humanity is they have to put 250–500 hours (depending on how many people are going to live in the house) into helping with their house. The more he talked and the more I thought about it, I realized that community is embedded in American society as well.
I spent 2 days working on houses. One in a rural village in a third world country and one in a suburb of a first world country. The materials and methods used for building both those houses looked extremely different, but they both were successes because they both had one central characteristic: a strong, loving community. So I guess the moral of this is the fundamental bridge around the world is community. It’s the heart of what keeps everything going. It’s essential to helping us live. And it’s everywhere. Stronger in some places than others, yes, but it’s so important for everyone to recognize this and the role that they have/can/should play in their own community.