If I had known they were christians I would never have gone there. Pat talked me into it, like Helen saying "let's go sailing". Well, not that drastic, but she had been after me to do something with my time, something .... I don't know what the adjective would be that fills the bill here: useful? hopeful? generous? Anyway, she said I should volunteer. I looked online at the volunteer positions locally and only one struck me as interesting and important; drivers were needed to transport disabled vets to the hospital up in Augusta. I like the idea of helping fill the void our government seems to so callously leave in the lives of the used-up and discarded citizens it has sent off the foreign lands to be mauled and disabled. I did not like the idea of getting into fistfights with wheelchair-bound, angry old souls about the necessity of patriotism and god. I backed away with my misgivings.
And then she saw the article in the paper about the warehouse being opened up by Habitat for Humanity. Ok, I thought; walking in the tracks of Jimmy Carter sounded good to me and off I went to offer my strong right arm. I always liked Jimmy despite the fact he was a christian; his comment on being an adulterer in his heart was so candid; it rang of a personal honesty I rarely expected from anyone, much less politicians. I really did think that Jimmy had invented HFH and alluded to that as I reported for duty. I was quickly disabused of that notion with many mentions of someone named Millard - at least I think that's the name; it is something that sounds like it belongs to a predelluvian Boston abolitionist. On being informed that the workday would start out with a prayer I quickly interjected that I was most certainly not a christian. My ruffled feathers were smoothed with an "it doesn't matter."
After three weeks with these folk I find that to be true. They all seem to be Lutherans - I will have to listen more carefully now when Garrison talks about the flock of Pastor Ingfest. But while many of the personal ties between these folk, and between them and the rest of the community, seem based on church-related stuff no one has laid the heavy hand of redemption on my shoulder and suggested I kneel and repent. I like them. They have a simple goodness of heart which reminds me much of the Friends I have known. Quietly soft-spoken I sense a deep vein of integrity about them. They believe in giving nothing away but in helping when they think the help will do some good. It is a very focused approach that probably does do a lot of good. I hope so.
It seems I may have signed on for the long haul. While I don't know what sort of people I will run into with other HFH outfits I know I have these people to return to. I say that because we have decided when we take the camper south this winter we will park at an HFH build and work. HFH in the bible-belt...we will see; I may have to grit my teeth a bit and stifle rude comments about know-it-all monotheists.
When we first retired, ten years ago next week, we cast our minds loose and saw ourselves volunteering as nurses in odd corners of the world, roaming the globe with sphygmonamometer in hand, learning new languages - the whole happy-crap picture. Of course, we did none of that and settled into softer, less demanding routines strictly of our own choosing. Ten years into it, and still young - by my own standards, I am actually turning that corner and taking a peek. Not only do I really like the people I have met, but i relish the 2 days a week of hard work.
One of the things lost with retirement is structure. Wonderful as it is not to have to mind the alarm clock and subsequently the imperious voices of idiots demanding this, that, and every other sort of nonsense from you, it becomes apparent that a bit of unraveling happens, too. One of my favorite themes in old B&W movies is the white man going native. He comes to the tropics, always the tropics, good intentions emanating from him like the perfume of roses, and with gnashing of teeth and moaning finds himself crumbling as all his former certainties come casually unmoored and beach in foreign mire. Between the gin and the dark-skinned women he opens like a ripe boil and suppurates.
Actually retirement is the corollary we stay-at-homes face. Maybe there are no dark-skinned girls lurking in the shadows, but the gin is always a potential problem. Lack of structure is not an umbrella beneath which most of us acquit ourselves well. When directionless we easily become beer-guzzling couch-potatoes, or some similar variety of animal. What to do next? Hobbies? Fishing? I think I have found a partial answer that satisfies in some way I can ill explain.
I knew what to do in Stitzel: I denuded a quarter mile of canyon of its stones and built with them, but now my body just isn't quite as pleased with that construct as it was several years ago. A focus that turns toward others, a direction I have never easily gone, and toward perhaps being an actual help to someone else, these seem worth trying out. This is about reinventing ourselves. Your back aches? Quit picking up hundred pound rocks! You can't remember what you had for breakfast? I don't have an answer for that one; it happens to me, too, and I just figure it is part and parcel. The day will come when reinvention simply won't shore up the sagging timbers of the mind and body any longer. But I think that time is a ways off and I'll deal with it when it gets here. don e., signing off for now.