“What are you doing, Dad?” the skinny college student, progeny of CAP harmony, stretched his legs out and looked up at his curly-haired father.
“I’ll give you two guesses. Last one doesn’t count.” He set a box of matches on the porch railing and pulled on the sleeves of his jacket.
“Shooting off bottle rockets?”
“I’m going to start a bonfire.”
Once started, like most sources of warmth, it began to draw people towards it. All Workfest volunteers – college students, long-termers, short-termers, and employees alike, sat on the rustic wooden benches that circled around the fire while Janean started to strum her guitar.
“Heading down south to the land of the pines…” We sang together – Janean, Carlo, me, and any others around the campfire who knew the words. Water started to drip from the sky as we neared the final lyrics of the song, but we ignored it.
One of the college students had brought along his guitar as well. As the final chords slipped from Janean’s guitar, he took over. “Lord, I come, I confess, bowing here I find my rest...” Music rose from the edge of the flickering flames. Suddenly the rain started to fall more heavily; more thickly than could be ignored. We all got up to find shelter, but the song continued as we headed up the hill. As the rain dampened our hair and our jackets, we walked to the rhythm of voices singing “Lord, I need you.”
As I listened to the music mixing with the patter of the rain, I couldn’t help but think what a good sign this was for the second week of Workfest ahead. It was going to be a good one. I could already tell.
Monday morning found me on a bus driven by a campus minister named Roy given to bouts of delightful ridiculousness. He jubilantly welcomed us onto the bus and headed down Sand Lick. As he took the curves just a tad bit too fast and sang tunes to make up for the lack of a radio, we the passengers couldn’t help but laugh and “oh, geez” as we made our way to the jobsite.
On the jobsite, our task was to continue the work that the previous group started last week. We built the inside walls and put up drywall, finished shingling the roof, and resumed putting up the siding. Words like Jack and King studs, cripples, California corners and wall t were thrown into the air and came back down in the form of one interior wall and a couple of closets.
At the beginning of the week, we had been informed that there would be a safety competition. Always enthused by any form of competition, Roy started a list on the wall to record how well we were doing. He began it by writing down something that we had done wrong.
“Wait, Roy, what are you doing? You should be writing down things that we’re doing right!”
He grinned. “No, no. I’m being honest and reporting the things that we do wrong. They’ll appreciate our honesty and we’ll get extra points for it. All those other groups are liars. We’re not liars.”
I laughed, shook my head, and went back to my work.
The drywall went up in twelve-foot sheets. We used the lift (I know, we were spoiled) to raise it to the ceiling, then screwed it into the rafters. The walls followed suit soon after.
Roy discovered a piece of drywall on the floor that had been cast aside with a slit cut close to the top. “Look! If walls could talk!” He moved the partially cut piece up and down like a mouth. “Hello, Larry!” We laughed while our fearless leader Larry shook his head and Roy went off to share his drywall puppet with the people in the next room.
I volunteered myself to drywall the closet. I accidentally put up one of the walls before the ceiling, which resulted in a prolonged wrestle between me and a piece of drywall intended for the ceiling in a very small space. That piece of drywall just did not want to fit into its place. Several minutes (we won’t get into how many), a pile of white dust, and one (laughing, squished into a little closet on a tiny ladder with me) helper later, the piece of drywall was up. Victory!
Meanwhile, the other half of the crew that was not working on drywall was outside putting up siding. Led by Roy, they sang Irish (or semi-perhaps-not even-Irish) tunes in honor of St. Patrick’s day while sliding pieces of vinyl along wooden walls.
The work week ended with Family Appreciation Night, where the various crews get to eat dinner with the families whose houses they worked on. Here, we met two of the kids who live at the house we were working on (we hadn’t met them before because they were at school). The son, a fourth grader named Trevor, took a seat comfortably amidst us and told us about his favorite subjects in school (math) and what he wants to be when he grows up: A policeman or a football player. “Both!” we said. “You should be both!” When we got up in front of all the crews to describe our week, the families were given the opportunity to speak. The mother shook her head, but Trevor fearlessly raised his hand. “I’ll say something.” He took the microphone.
“I just want to thank all of you for everything that you’re doing. Thank you.” We smiled and gave him a hand.
Last weekend I was talking with some other volunteers when the topic of favorite song lyrics came up. The one that came to me was a beautiful line from a Ben Howard song (Old Pine) on a camp CD: we sang/Just to bless the morning. And I was reminded of those words this week.
This past week we worked -and laughed – and sang, just to bless the mornings, the days, and the nights.
Because really, it was the mornings, the days, and the nights that had blessed us. And when you find a blessing like that, it’s worth a song, a laugh, or even the little bit of aggravation that can be found in a stubborn closet ceiling.
A good week?
It certainly was.