A new house is being built on the lot next to our convent. Here are a few of my thoughts as I watch this new house going up.
First, a little background. The woman who is having the house built (I’ll call her Anne) is going to be a very nice neighbor. We three nuns concluded this because, the day before construction began, she came over to introduce herself and to give us a lovely card. The card apologized for the noise, dust, and dirt we were going to have to put up with for the next few months. How thoughtful of her, we thought. Anne also apologized for having a tall evergreen tree cut down where her house was going to be. She felt bad about that, but she was happy she was able to keep all the other trees on the lot.
What have I noticed as I watch the house go up?
Everyone is always measuring something. Even before construction began, surveyors came and surveyed (measured) the lot. They placed sticks with little orange flags all over the place. I, of course, didn’t know what the sticks meant. But the guy who operated the excavator knew. Using the sticks as his guide, he knew exactly where to dig the basement and foundation for that house.
When the bricklayers came, they too were always measuring their work with their tape measures. They also used a leveler to make sure the brick walls were perfectly straight. When the carpenters came and put up the frame and then the walls, they too were always measuring their work. So too did the men who laid the shingles on the roof. Their precision really impressed me!
Many people work really hard for a living. Every time I passed by the house or glanced out the window at the progress, I saw people working hard. Bricks are heavy. Being precise is hard. Sawing wood is dangerous. Walking across a narrow wall of cement blocks is demanding. Carrying long boards or a pack of shingles up a ladder is arduous. And doing most of these things in the hot sun only makes the labor more taxing. A friend said it is difficult to get young people interested in doing bricklaying, carpentry, plumbing, etc. Even though you can make a good living by doing such work, many young people are turned away by the hard work involved in those trades, he said.
Many people possess incredible skills. I was mesmerized by the work of the bricklayers. When they laid the cement blocks for the foundation, I kept wondering, “How do they know the proper consistency for the mortar? How do they keep the walls straight?” When they laid red bricks to cover up the cement blocks, I was even more intrigued. “The bricks are not all alike,” I thought. “How do they know which brick to choose next?” I was talking with one of our maintenance men who knows a thing or two about construction. As we gazed admiringly at the bricklayers, he said, “And what they are doing here today will last 100 years. Not many of us can say that about our work.”
Construction work takes a long time. The first few weeks of construction, we saw major progress every day. First the foundation. Then the brick walls. Next the first floor. Then the outer walls. Soon the roof. Then the gables. Next the shingles. But now the progress won’t be so obvious. The interior work will take considerable time. Anne says she hopes to move in by Thanksgiving.
It takes a long time to build a house. It takes a long time to build anything. How much easier it is to destroy or tear down than it is to build. I thought: If it takes this long to build a house, this much hard work, this much precision, this much skill, this much teamwork, then shouldn’t we be more patient with the building of other things in our life? Like trust… like family… like community… like peace… like a just society…. like love.
Did anything stand out for you in this reflection? If so, what? and why?
What “things” are you currently building in your life?
This song by Chris August is a simple prayer to Jesus: “Abide in Me.” It raises the question: is our heart a home for Jesus?
Do you have anything you’d like to say or add? Please do so below.