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The first major construction project I participated in was building the fence around my family’s yard in Littleton, Colo.
I was just a kid, but my father let me help him secure the support post before a construction company arrived to put up the actual fencing.
I loved the whole experience; I loved watching the bead swish back and forth on the level, which was used to make sure the posts were straight.
My father showed me how to use a hammer to nail in the posts and together we created a wooden grid of vertical and horizontal lines around the yard.
The best thing however, was standing back and looking at what we had accomplished.
Until recently the only building projects I had pursued were hanging pictures on the wall.
Then, an opportunity appeared that allowed me to try my hand again at construction.
The first day of the house building project in Juárez started early in the morning.
From the courtyard at the church where the House of Hope group was staying, I could see the modern urban landscape of El Paso. It seemed funny to think that just a couple minutes away from this concrete jungle were roosters crowing to start a new day.
It was going to be a busy one for us. We loaded the vans with big, rolling toolboxes and tossed cylinders of chicken wire onto the top of one of the vehicles.
We piled into the vans and set off to the building site. The site was located directly across from a medical clinic and a little further down was a school.
A concrete pad, stuffed between a chipped, pink stucco home and what looked to be a shed, was waiting to be transformed into a house.
The yard was sand and a group of dogs bathed in the sun. At the entrance was a wooden restaurant stand.
The lot was a small patch of land filled to the brim with stuff. It also bustled with activity. Children played off to one side and adults maneuvered back and forth from the pink house to the restaurant.
The House of Hope certainly contributed to the day’s hub bub. We pulled out power saws and sliced through wood beams, then took these beams out to the street and nailed them together. We hoisted the frames and laid them down on squiggles of glue.
Next, we took sheets of plywood and nailed them into the frames.
Through all this work, I showed just how rusty I am with construction. I whacked away at nails with a hammer only to see them wobble and fall to the ground.
Wood beams wore multiple pencil markings where I needed to re-measure and I continuously fumbled to work out kinks and folds in the measuring tape.
It did not surprise me that my construction skills were clumsy, but what made me shrug off all my short-comings was my team members’ forgiveness for my performance.
They offered advice and provided instruction on different tasks. Not only that, but they extended their hands to invite me to do new tasks.
These women are my dream team – they support, root and applaud each other. No one is left sitting on the sidelines.
So when we called it a day and I looked at what we had accomplished – the foundations of a house built and installed on that square patch of concrete – I felt that same glow of accomplishment I experienced as a child helping my father build a fence.
It was a sweet feeling knowing this project was well on the road to completion and that everyone, working together, would bring it through to the end.