Build Day
Soldiers vs Shrinks

A Hand Up

One week ago our bus drove down School Street in Pascagoula, Mississippi, stopping at a construction site.


We were working with Habitat for Humanity that day, helping build two houses. One of them -- on the left in preceding picture -- is the house that Jimmy Carter will be working next month during his yearly work stint with the organization he founded.

I worked on that house, too. Because the walls are premanufactured, there are a lot of nails that just missed the studs -- these little babies are called shiners. I pounded out shiners so that they could be removed and repounded into the studs. Some of the studs on the inside of the house are made from the big Christmas tree that stood in Rockefeller Plaza last Christmas. This sounds really cool -- and it is really cool -- but the experienced carpenters hate the stuff. The wood is really bad, very sappy and soft. But as long as it's just used to help hold up drywall rather than exterior or weight-bearing walls, everything is just fine.

My big job that day, though, was adding siding to the shed for one of the houses. I am now a Siding Queen. I can measure, cut, and nail up siding with the best of them.

Okay, maybe not with the best of them. But I can do it.

This was my shed. Doris was my team lead. She and her husband Bob are Habitat groupies. They're retired, live in their RV, and go from project to project, building houses for Habitat for Humanity. Now that's pretty cool.


Doris taught us how to do everything and made sure we did it right. I want to be her when I grow up.

One of my team members was Melissa, who is buying one of the other houses being built on School Street. In this picture, she's in the red shirt, helping my colleague Bertha measure the siding.


Everyone who buys a Habitat house has to qualify for the no-interest loan, and they have to put in 150-200 hours of sweat equity by helping to build the houses. Melissa's a single mom to two boys, and you could see the excitement in her face when she talked about her home-to-be.

A couple time we had to tear off pieces of siding because we didn't line it up right with the other walls or because we didn't snap it together quite properly. Doris was making sure this shed was done right! But finally we finished, ahead of schedule, and Doris had us sign the last piece of siding before we nailed it in.


We didn't build a whole house that day, but we helped a lot. And I will never take homeownership for granted ever again.

As the Habitat for Humanity folks say: It's not a hand OUT; it's a hand UP.

(All the pictures from the day are here.)