Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Day 6: I Want You and Your Beautiful Soul

Day 6: Your Beautiful Soul, or, The Perks of Being Anal

Quote of the Day
"Come bask in the glow of friendship with us."
- Phillip Barbolla
The title of today's blog post has two origins. The first of these is Jesse McCartney's song "Beautiful Soul" (the significance of which will be discussed later). The second of these is the fact that StevEarl once referred to one of your bloggers as "the most anal person I hope to God I ever have to deal with". Why that was said, I really don't know, but, well, our trip took a different turn today... and your blogger's acute analness may have been sorely missed. (That is to say, his analness would never allow such disorganization to happen. But I'm getting a head of myself.)

A few days ago StevEarl received a phone call from his boss - CSCHabitat's head honcho, Roy - about a project in a different part of Columbia. An organization is currently in the process of rehabilitating a house for a WWII widow who is a recent double-leg amputee. The project had fallen behind considerably, and the rehabilitators reached out to Habitat for some help. StevEarl, Hank, and Rev. Paul ventured to the site to see exactly what was up, to find a site that was in somewhat disarray. But even still, plans were made for us to head out today to see what we could do.

Well, okay. "Embrace the awkward." We'll go with it.

We get to the worksite (a 30-minute drive from Rockgate) to discover that, well... the caliber of organization was not up to Habitat's standards. (Some more colorful language was used to describe this lack of organization. But if I learned one thing from George Carlin...) Our duty was to lay down the concrete for the driveway for this lady. didn't have tools (or, frankly, a clue).

Concrete laying isn't hard, per se, but there are a handful of things that make it simpler. 
  1. Tools. (We had those, fortunately. Matt and Steve planned ahead.)
  2. A boundary for the concrete to be laid in. (One of the guys in charge drove a truck over it. We had to repair that.)
  3. Concrete that isn't too watery. (Our first batch was.)
  4. Concrete that isn't too dry. (We had to keep pouring water on it to keep moving it around.)
  5. A semi-accurate count of how many yards of concrete will be needed. (Two loads were ordered, covering maybe a third of the space of the driveway. More will becoming tomorrow)
So yeah. Working conditions were, all in all, kind of awkward. And the fact that almost the entirety of the RoCo Habitat crew was there to help probably didn't make things less awkward. (The El Diablo crew abandoned their efforts to come help.) But all in all, concrete laying is pretty cool, really messy, and very different from anything that we had been anticipating during our week.

We packed up and left at around 3 to head to a gentleman named Sam's house.

Sam is, simply put, a long-term friend of Roanoke College. Back in 2006, Sam and Roy (Roy is the current executive director of CSCHabitat, and before that held StevEarl's job as construction manager) were the ones responsible on Habitat's end to make our R-House project happen. That project has evolved over time, but Sam's love of Roanoke College students hasn't. As he and his wife told us tonight, two of the highlights of their calendar year are Roanoke's fall and spring break visits. This has become a tradition that we always look forward to.

Sam's house has a giant backyard with a fire area, volleyball court, swing set, cornhole, horseshoes, and baseball. He and his wife also have chickens, among other livestock, and an adorable five-year-old son named DR (who is quite literally a miracle child, but that's another story).

The result usually escalates into full-throttle volleyball. Volleyball this time around was kind of loose, and turned into "Steve is going to hold his drink in his hand and yell at us if we spill it SO TRY AND SMACK THE BALL AT HIM" (okay, so that may have been just me). Both baseball and cornhole had shots of intensity - Matt's team was able to win a match come back from a 10 point deficit at one point during a cornhole match. Oh, and the swing set ended up completely toppling over and falling apart at one point (congratulations Nathan Sliwa and Rachel Glick).

(During this time, it should be noted, a crew arrived with a special surprise for Rev. Paul arrived. They would start setting up fairly discreetly throughout the evening.)

And then food was served. Now, something that everyone should note: Sam's barbecue skills are literally second to none (and he's got the trophies to prove it). RC Habitat should (and if we could, totally would) finance a restaurant featuring Sam's barbecue in Salem that we could eat at 24/7. Sam's mac'n'cheese and ribs = heaven on a plate. So good that Steve actually at some when it fell onto Sam's porch steps (violating the five-second rule by... a lot). And we didn't judge him.

After dinner was served and we all had eaten ourselves silly, we headed over to a big stack of firewood/dead tree limbs/brush. (Like, really big. Really big.) Sam blowtorch-ed the pile and ignited a giant fire (that at times almost appeared out-of-control). Not only did that light up the night with frightening intensity, it provided wonderful heat. (Today wasn't the warmest of days.) We enjoyed the fire, toasted marshmallows, smoked cigars (well, those that wanted to), and enjoyed each other's company. We were joined by our whole crew, Matt, Steve, Emily, Talisha, Roy, Sam, DR, and a handful of Sam's extended family. (At one point, Shannon and one of your bloggers united for our mandatory American Gothic painting remake with Sam's pitchfork. Ours is cooler, though, because there is a giant fire blazing in the background.)

During this time, Elizabeth, Bridget, and Mollie revealed something they had secretly been working on all week. This threesome worked on a new cornhole set for CSCHabitat, but, in the process, had made some commemorative cornhole boards for Rev. Paul. One is adorned with the RoCo logo and "Rev. Paul" in really large letters. The other is adorned with an R-House logo, with messages written on it by all of us on the trip. I've mentioned before the finality that this trip has towards Habitat as we know it. This presentation marked phase one in our own personal finale.

Phase two was just around the corner. After awhile, the time came for that surprise for Paul I mentioned. Sam had warned us all earlier, and prefaced it with the fact that he and his family had planned it several years ago, but Paul had had a family emergency. And then we got fireworks. A really cool, long (like, really long) fireworks display. It was honestly pretty crazy. Sam's house is situated maybe twenty or so yards away from a small lake. The fireworks were shot off from the bank of the creek. This was an incredible showing of the meaning that Rev. Paul has had on Sam's family over the years.*
*It's worth noting that the only person who didn't particularly enjoy the display was one of your bloggers, who suffers from a mortal fear of fireworks and spent most of the display cuddled in the fetal position on a bench behind the fire.

 Just so I don't forget this:
 Dear Sam, Tammy, and DR,

Thank you so much for the generosity and hospitality that you showed us. Everything about this night was perfect - from the games to the food to the fire to the fireworks. Thank you for allowing us to share in your gift to Paul on his last trip, and thank you for sharing your home and yourselves with us tonight.

We always look forward to time with you - and we all hope that will continue well beyond this spring break.

Lots of love,
Roanoke College Habitat for Humanity

So yeah. If that wasn't enough, then Rev. Paul got up to speak. He told us that there are two things that he wants everyone to remember: first, to believe in something that you're willing to follow through to see how it goes (recounting how in spring 1987, he never would have imagined that his first trip would evolve into whatever we are now); and second, to surround yourself with people like Roy, Sam, and Steve, and Matt with friendships that are so deep that, no matter how long you're away from them, you can always pick back up where you started. (Hearing this really makes me wish I knew Roy better - we always meet him in passing, but I wish I knew him better as an individual.)

And that's when waterworks started. I think we'd all been blinking back tears for some time, but... yeah. Of course, Paul had to go make it worse by going to play with DR and another young relative of his immediately afterward, because, as Mollie, one of your bloggers said, "He touches literally everyone that he meets."

A lot can and will be said over the next two months leading up to Paul's official retirement but something needs to be said here and now: he has touched all of our lives in such profound ways; he established something with Habitat that has touched all of our lives in such profound ways; he's basically and inspiration and a personal hero; and we're all blessed to have known him. God only knows what's going to happen tomorrow, on his last day on a Habitat worksite (in this capacity). We have to finish the concrete... and we might all be crying (and I do mean all)... 

Jesse McCartney's song "Beautiful Soul" has absolutely nothing to do with really anything, but as I sat around the fire, blinking back tears, being grateful for where I was and who I was with, I started thinking:

Here's to the beautiful souls who have come together during this Habitat trip:

Steve, Matt, Talisha, Emily, Roy, and the rest of Habitat's crew 
who put up with us for the week

The Davises, Sam, Tammy, DR, and the Griffins,
who've shown us incredible hospitality throughout the week.

Ned & William,
who joined us at different points for this week 

Hank & Jen,
who took an excessive gamble by accompanying a rowdy group of college students on spring break and lived to tell

That group of twenty-seven college students who gave up the traditional spring break to work/"work"

and lastly to Rev. Paul, who has changed our lives for the better in so many ways.

You all mean so much more to us than you'll ever know.

But we've got one day left.

So, until tomorrow, when we might actually be crying too hard to successfully blog with coherency,

Andrew Dittmar and Mollie Gleason
Bloggers extraordinaire

P.S. We tried to have a nametag theme of "Thingama-"something but didn't have good nametag tape, alas. Perhaps tomorrow. And our lunch was pizza.

This is a meme about the truth behind RC Habitat. Enjoy.

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