Monday, July 21, 2008

Manual Labor

Ben and I have entered the crazy (and exciting) world of home ownership! We closed on our new house last Thursday, and are full-swing into fixing it up before move in-- a huge job, since it is a foreclosure that has fallen into disrepair during its several months sitting vacant. We've had people gutting the basement, and there are more coming to put in a new electrical system, rip out the vinyl floor in the kitchen, install tiles, clean out the gutters, install drains in the basement and refinish the floors. Ben and I have been in there too (More Ben, really... minding a 11 month old is surprisingly incompatible with working on a house): we've prepped for painting, spackled the walls, pulled out the caulking in the bathroom, cleaned the windows, and started cleaning up the yard. In the next week or two we hope to install blinds, put in some new cabinets, and, eventually move in!

This, for me, has been my first prolonged immersion in the world of manual labor, and it's been sort of amazing/horrifying. First of all, I am a total wuss! My shoulders and arms have been sore for three days from removing 3 (yes, I am ashamed to admit it) vinyl tiles in the kitchen and washing some windows. All this while I have watched three men literally destroying and carrying the entirety of our basement into a huge dumpster over the course of two days. I guess I just don't have what it takes.

But, today, as I was thinking about the workers that have been in our house-- who work for relatively meager wages, with total uncertainty about where their next work will come from, and no health benefits, even though, dear Lord, of all people in the world, they need it the most. They are living far away from the place they consider "home," in all probability away from their wives, children, families-- bunking up with other young laborers like themselves in cramped conditions, and, on top of all of that, viewed with contempt and hatred by many if not most people around here. I was thinking about how to interact with them, how we can be good, ethical employers (Do we buy them lunch? How do we react when they don't show up for work, or leave early without explanation? How do I, as a young woman, treat them with dignity and respect without creating a cultural misunderstanding about my intentions?), and God revealed something to me that hit me like a ton of bricks. That man Jesus, who is our Savior, the Son of God, yadda yadda, WAS A CARPENTER. How this fact was not fully understood by me until today is unbelievable, because of course I factually knew he was a carpenter, but I never really understood what that means.

Talk about being made vulnerable to the world in a day-to-day, hour-by-hour sort of way. So, more than anything, right now, I am pausing to think about this. It has 1) totally transformed the way I think about Jesus, and 2) totally transformed the way I think about those workers. Who knows where this is taking me, but I feel like it is a breakthrough. Right now, I am enjoying thinking about Jesus as a worker. Did he drive a hard bargain, or give out good deals? What was his workmanship like? (pretty good, I'm guessing) Did he take breaks for lunch with his coworkers? Did he pack a lunch, or eat out? What were his conversations like while he was working? Did the people around him have any idea about who he was? Did he even really understand who he was? Let it be known that over these coming weeks, as I interact with these burly, sweaty, dirty workers, I will truly behave as if I am in the presence of the sacred, Jesus in our midst.


Aaron Van Dyke said...

It's so great to read these updates! I laughed really hard when I read that there's a whole genre of books about families moving to a farm. When I was back in Seattle with my sister's family we were saying how fun it is to be able to cook/hang out together and Sarah said, "well if you ever get a job in Seattle we can buy a 2 family house and each take a floor." It immediately made me think of the commune idea you have thrown around a few times, and there was something profoundly appealing about that idea.

I hope to someday be able to see your house, I'm sure it will be amazingly charming. And as I've come to discover, not all of us were meant to do physical labor, I probably would have given up after 2 vinyl tiles.

Keep the good stuff coming!

One and Doll said...

Adele, I am so glad you are back to blogging!! And it is very good to hear about the house! I can't wait to see it. God only knows when. . .

I love and miss you!