Building the New House Next Door

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.

A front view of the new house going up next door. (Photos courtesy of Sr. Sandy Nativio.)

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.

This is the back of the new house. Our convent can be seen in the background.

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.

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  1. Judy on September 10, 2018 at 5:09 am

    As always moving from the ordinary to the extraordinary in God’s search for a home in the human heart ♥️ . Thanks!

  2. John on September 10, 2018 at 6:43 am

    Good morning, Melannie. Such a wise meditation on the essence of building something — anything, for that matter. Yes, so much time, effort, and skill go into the construction of the physical objects of this world, but in the blink of an eye they can all be leveled. I’m thinking now of the terrible destruction going on in Syria. The next time I’m in a room — like right now — I’ll give thought to the dozens of people who at one point in time made the room possible with their hard work, skill, and, yes, measuring. May God bless them all!

  3. Terri Butel on September 10, 2018 at 7:32 am

    Thank you for reminding me that there are so many good reasons that work worth doing takes time. I’m thinking of a brief article for associates. It has been four weeks, but the input I’ve received along The Way – some of the loveliest from sources I did not seek – will make it more meaningful. I’m back to joyful from self-impatience thanks to your insightful writing! Peace to you…

  4. Ceil on September 10, 2018 at 7:39 am

    Thank you for the realization that we need to build His kingdom and it’s hard work to build a foundation,

  5. Emilia on September 10, 2018 at 8:19 am

    Great reflection! Having witnessed a huge building go up on our property, I can relate to this blog. My one addition is that even after careful work, there is a punch list of minor corrections to be addressed and regular upkeep needed to maintain the structure . So in a way the construction is ongoing and the owner can add to the legacy of the original building. Just so our spiritual life will grow with the tweaks and upkeep we contribute to the God’s original work.

  6. Dorothy on September 10, 2018 at 9:05 am

    The whole meditation, particularly since we are beginning a special part
    in To Share the Journey, a communal project in our Nursing Home for
    help for all those in need of patient, observant welcome in our homeland. We are “walking” or riding (scooters) one mile per
    week within our long corridors, and some sort of fasting.
    So, many thanks for a good rationale. The strength needed is
    found in Abide in Me!

  7. Roseann on September 10, 2018 at 10:33 am

    I have always marveled at how we can build from God’s gracious bounty with simple “packages” of pasta, rice, vegetables, meats, etc., and ultimately create a delicious meal for family, friends, soup kitchens, and countless other facilities for all to be nourished – as we also are nourished in the Blessed Eucharist.
    Bless us O Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen

  8. Tom on September 10, 2018 at 10:51 am

    (Notes from a neighbor) I recall the old, abandoned house that needed to be razed to make room for this lovely new house. And what if my home needed to be razed to make room for a modern, more efficient dwelling? So in the spiritual life, the progress we would like to make can only happen when we have cleared the ground and made space for new attitudes and habits to be built. It can be difficult. Even Jesus noted that the old wine is preferred over the new.

  9. Jean Canatsey on September 10, 2018 at 11:35 am

    The description of someone carefully measuring and building a house made me think of my Dad who built more than one home for us. I remember the time he redid a basement wall because when he took a final measurement it was 1/8 of an inch off. I often compare those houses to the one we reside in to today. Unfortunately, we still have a lot of workmen but not many craftsman.
    I was extremely impressed with Anne’s concern for the established neighborhood and for the feelings of the ones who have come before. Another facet of “precision building”.

  10. Mary on September 10, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    Just returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land beautiful reflection Sister! My nightly prayer Sacred Heart of Jesus make my heart like your heart dear Lord! So amazing to walk where Jesus walked!

  11. Meg on September 10, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    A beautiful analogy! Cheers to the original construction worker and craftsman of creation, our God!
    I work in a Catholic high school in Dayton, Ohio, and am going to share this issue with our Civil Engineering & Architecture teacher to share with his students!

  12. Josita on September 10, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    Dear Melannie , Thanks once again for the beautiful reflection on appreciation …how much I often take for granted!
    I am especially impressed with your neighbor’s sensitivity and kindness and concern.
    Have a blessed week. Josita

  13. Patti on September 10, 2018 at 3:58 pm

    So often we view a new structure, home or other, with a critical eye, or just accept that it is as it is, not all the back breaking work, sweat and tears involved in it’s completion! As a child I thought once I made my Confirmation I was ‘done’ with learning about the church… NOW… at 72 I’m STILL teaching as a Faith Coach and STILL learning every day !!

  14. Annie on September 10, 2018 at 11:50 pm

    What a beautiful reflection. And what a considerate and thoughtful new neighbor that is coming to your neighborhood! That is a wonderful idea for anyone moving to a new place where a new house is being built for them! May Jesus continue to abide in all of us. Thank you!

  15. Dorothy Janofsky on September 11, 2018 at 10:09 am

    I am always impressed by how the workers endure the weather. Rain or heat they toil away.

  16. Sue on September 11, 2018 at 10:11 pm

    I look forward to Monday! Thank you so much for sharing these precious stories. My father was handy…he built the fences and decks, painted and wallpapered rooms, and pretty much fixed and repaired anything! My siblings and I have nice homes. Any construction or repairs are left to the professionals! I’ve noticed that the gardeners, painters and construction crews are usually the hardest working people…no quit in them! These hard worker’s are for the most part immigrants…our children won’t take these jobs. I thank God for all that they do!

  17. Karen on September 14, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    Thank you for the wonderful reflections. I wonder what would bring people back to valuing the hard work that goes into building and maintaining things? It seems counter-cultural in our throw-away society. Yet, I know I feel so good when I am cleaning or repairing or creating new clothes, etc for my family. (maybe not always during but definitely after).
    My ‘building’ in my life are my two sons, quickly approaching the tween/teen years and my marriage. That building is hard work! Thank you for the reminder to ‘measure twice, cut once’ and maybe be more patient with the process.

  18. Marty on September 23, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    As always great metaphors esp the song. My cousin’s husband died sudenly Friday night and the song hit home. Hope to hear how you are.

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