On a warm July morning, just a few weeks ago, my husband, my son, and 16 other volunteers loaded up a few trucks and vans with tools and toolbelts, divided up some road snacks baked and bought by friends and family, received a few last-minute medical instructions, reviewed their maps, and joined hands for prayers and blessings for a safe trip and a safe return. As I waved goodbye to Rick and Max and the others, lyrics to a folk song kept playing in my mind, over and over….
“If I had a hammer…I’d hammer in the morning…I’d hammer in the evening…all over this land.
I’d hammer out danger…I’d hammer out a warning…I’d hammer out the love between my brothers and my sisters….all over this land!”
Why this song? Because that, in sense, was the mission of this group. To hammer out the dangers of an unsafe structure, to hammer out a warning to those who think these conditions don’t exist in our country, and to hammer out the love for our brothers and sisters by bringing them the helping hands they needed in order to live in the warmer, safer, drier conditions that most of us take for granted. This very special group was heading to West Virginia to do just that!
This was Max and Rick’s second Appalachian Service Project Trip with St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. Imagine my pride in knowing that my husband gave up a week’s vacation to work alongside our 17-year-old son in a program that means so very much to him. Imagine my pride in knowing that my son feels compelled to crawl under a stranger’s home during the hottest week of the summer and help steady a foundation. Imagine my pride in each and every one of the volunteers that travelled with them and did their absolute best to make things right, or at least a little more right, for a handful of souls that swallowed their own pride and asked for help. Imagine the pride of a work crew that stopped a home from slipping into the creek, added indoor plumbing to a home where there had been none, or built a ramp for a man confined to a wheelchair because he lost both of his legs to diabetes and the use of his arm due to a stroke–a man who was now able to come outside of his home on his own for the first time in years.
We live in a country where both sides of the political spectrum spend so much time trying to prove they are right and our own citizens are living with no plumbing, no heating, no way to see the outside world. We spend billions of dollars nation-building in countries that don’t want us and we ignore the problems right under our own noses. I am not trying to be political here–not trying to wag my finger at one side or the other–in fact, I try to keep politics out of my writing, because that’s not what I want my blog to be. But it’s hard to remain quiet and still when you see what these volunteers have seen. Despite your political views, it’s hard to dispute that we live in a country where every day the wealthy are given the gift of opportunities and the poor give up one more dream. We talk about the growing gap, we talk about the growing inequality, we talk and we talk and we talk and we are so exhausted from all that talking that we forget to DO.
Force your eyes open to see the poverty and the inequality; force yourself to see that sometimes it just isn’t possible for another to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps; force yourself to see that we all have a responsibility to DO what is right, not just preach what is right. Offer a hand of help and hope. Do it in the spirit of love for your brothers and your sisters and watch how things can change…all over this land.
*Become a fan of Appalachia Service Project on facebook and see how you can help–there are links on the information page for volunteering, donating and shopping their general store. You can also visit their website for more information at http://www.BuildANewYou.org.
*Photos from St. Johns Evangelical Lutheran Church’s 2011 ASP Trip courtesy Rick Braden. Group shot at beginning of blog courtesy of Susan Colby