My symptoms started showing up when my plane landed in Detroit on June 17 for the Jimmy Carter Work Project in Detroit.
The first noticeable symptom was amazement at the generosity of people. The JCWP grabbed my heart in a way I've not experienced before, from the generosity of for-profit companies who donated building materials and restaurant vouchers, to the Detroit affiliate members who worked months laying foundations and prepping the build sites for our arrival, to the support staff who fed us hot breakfast at 6:15 every morning, to the amazing crew of people who helped build a home for Stacy Wilson and her son, Jajwan, flying from Los Angeles, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.
The next symptom that cropped up was complete physical exhaustion after the first 11-hour day when we raised the walls and nailed the roof on. I was so tired when we arrived back at the dormitory at Wayne State University that I sat on the edge of my bed and thought, "If I can crawl to the bathroom, I'll take a shower and go to bed. If not, I will simply go to bed." No thought of dinner even crossed my mind. Now, for me, that's a serious symptom of Habititus, being willing to forgo food over sleep.
The next symptom that overwhelmed me was "love that cast out fear" as I found myself climbing in the rafters clipping J-clips to plywood and hammering the boards in place, and then nailing shingles on the roof with a delightful young woman named Joy, who was a freshman at the University of Michigan (my alma mater), active in the Habitat affiliate at the university, and the daughter of Chinese-born parents. She speaks fluent Mandarin; I told her of my hopes to adopt a daughter from China in the spring of 2006. Joy quickly became a friend. So did all of the crew members with whom I worked.
That leads me to the most prominent symptom of Habititus: adoption into a new family. Stacy, the homeowner, said she's not a gardener, but when the donated shrubs and trees were planted, she promptly named them after each of the crew members and said, "You have become my family. When I water these trees and shrubs, I will remember you and talk with each of you."
From June 17-24, 1,500 volunteers paid $500 plus transportation costs to work their tail ends off for a week in Detroit, building 50 homes in Benton Harbor and Detroit. In addition, 180 homes were built all over the state, as well as six in Windsor, Canada. One gentleman with whom I road on the bus to breakfast said he's built 45 Habitat homes through a group of retired folks that caravan across the United States building homes.
What would move someone to do something like that when there are so many other options for retirement? What would move people to use vacation time and finances to build a simple, decent, affordable home for a Habitat homeowner?
Only the God who is love and bites us with the infectious and, yet, enlivening Habititus bug! I am one grateful "sufferer" of Habititus. And I hope to infect many more people.
Our lakes area affiliate is looking for people to help with salvage crews, building and support crews, office help and staffing the Restore, which recycled 416,495 pounds of reusable materials and provided sales to build two Habitat homes. It accepts undamaged and/or new appliances, carpet, doors, fireplaces, furnaces, hardware light fixtures, lamps, ceiling fans, lumber, sinks, toilets, windows and more.
Contact Laurie Ziebell at 828-8517 if you think you may be catching the Habititus bug.
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