Shine on, Tim

Cancer sucks, and I'm becoming increasingly convinced through my own evidence-based research that the gene that makes you susceptible to growing cancer in your body carries with it the one that makes you an incredible gift to the human race. 


The world lost a great man on Sunday.  He was the man who came to honor his friend Ray, a loyal Habitat volunteer for the first decade of our affiliate who had just passed away very suddenly himself.  We were building a memorial home for Ray, one of Tim’s dearest friends.  Tim arrived on our job site one of the best carpenters we’d ever hosted, one of the best we would ever host.  He was careful and quiet, he was astonished at what we were allowing volunteers with no experience to do, and perhaps a little frustrated by needing to fix some of their errors to get the home up to snuff.  I was still fairly new to homebuilding, and appropriately intimidated by Tim’s gifts.  That was before I knew his soul.  I didn’t get that glimpse inside Tim until his daughter Hannah invited him to build with her on the high school’s Habitat house.  Tim signed up for an every-Saturday commitment, and his shining, sunny, articulate and energetic daughter was with him every single Saturday morning.  To commit a full day of work every week outside of the other five or six days you are using your body to work is really something else.  Tim was sparkly on the job site though, he loved it.  Not because of the work, but because he was with Hannah, and they were doing something they both loved to do:  helping others.  He loved it, I imagine, because he got to share his incredible talent with Hannah and teach her along the way.  I saw Tim’s patience with those students in the months he worked on our sites so regularly.  I saw his heart with the homeowners, and the way he shifted his focus from producing to teaching.  

Tim was the guy we called when we had a major addition to put on our old home on 8th Street.  We were preparing for Caroline’s arrival, and needed another bedroom.  Nothing is simple in a 120 year old home though, and the addition was to be nearly as costly as the rest of the home had been.  We waited for the weather to break that soggy fall to dig a foundation.  The morning after I found out my marriage was falling apart a backhoe appeared through the kitchen window.  Pregnant, scared, and donning only a bathrobe and slippers, I ventured out to tell the driver he needed to load up and leave.  He didn’t believe me.  Said he had just spoken to Tim that morning, and this was the day.  

“I know, Tim doesn’t know yet, but I’ll call him” I assured the driver.  

That project was undoubtedly Tim’s bread and butter that fall.  He ran a small team and only committed to what he could manage, he likely had prioritized this project over others he turned down.  I called and only told him that we needed to cancel the project and that I was very sorry.  

Always hard to get a snap of Tim on site AND looking at the camera.  He was there to work, and he did it with much love.

Always hard to get a snap of Tim on site AND looking at the camera.  He was there to work, and he did it with much love.

“I understand, Kerry.  I will be thinking of you.” Was his only response.  The kindness in his tone could not be missed.  He knew I could not bare to tell him more, that the tears were too close to causing a full breakdown.  When I saw him again, he gave me a long hug and told me if I needed anything at all just to call him.  He’d be there.  

That was the man Tim was.  Putting aside his disappointment to look at the bigger picture, to see what the rest of the story might be.  Always there for others.  He is the one that defied doctor’s orders to show up at my farewell party in June, though his strength would not allow him to stay long.  “Just because I had to come see you and wish you well.  To thank you.”

For the many homes you built for others, with and without lots of money, I thank you Tim.  For the many lessons you taught me about giving, I thank you.  For the solidly grounded, non-partisan political discussions, I thank you.  For the warm hugs and forgiveness, for the leadership you provided our community, for the way you loved your family, and for the dignified way you lived and died, thank you Tim.  You are a treasure.  Shine on, my friend.  Shine through me, and through the many you taught while we were with you.

Homecoming: A Christmas treasuring what matters

The anticipation of home is upon us all.  There is an eagerness in the air every night at feeling check, but I find myself wondering what are we all looking forward to.  Something familiar?  Something simple we know like the language in the background?   Will it matter that there are no familiar pictures on the walls of our home?  That our kids will not be able to access their beds or their toys or those clothes they tucked away so many months ago?  The ones that no longer fit, but that are missed somehow, nonetheless.  Do they look forward to knowing all of the buildings in that town?  To recollecting their personal histories there?  I wonder what ties us all back to place.  

It is not, perhaps any one thing or person, but the familiarity of it all that we miss.   We are tied to the place and the people, even the strangers back home who now feel more familiar than most anyone we’ve encountered in the past several months...

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A History Worth Learning

It’s hard to put into words the feeling I get watching my children start to truly comprehend the holocaust.  I’m proud of them for diving deep, for a weekend of relentless questions, many of which had no answers.  I’m heartbroken that these stories are still being lived today in a world where the color of your skin or your religious beliefs can find you persecuted in a myriad of ways.  That heartbreak leaves me with an urgency to show them what happens when a nation joins behind a leader in hate.  This was the weekend it began to really sink in....


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When Drugs Exhaust Compassion: A Call to Action

Compassion.  That is what threatens to escape me lately, looking out my window at the growing crowd of addicts, as I struggle to understand how this epidemic could have ballooned so quickly into a swarm of humans who have sunk so low none of us seem to know how to help.  I’ve hurried past them not knowing what they will do next, or if I will safely arrive at my destination.  When I am at risk of losing my compassion, it signals the moment I am called to act.  

We have labeled this problem a homeless problem.  When I moved here, I knew each of the chronically homeless people by name.  I knew a little about each of their lives, and I would share a conversation or a cup of coffee with them frequently. Local downtown restaurant owners would let them come in and warm up with a free cup of coffee and a dry, clean bathroom.  We were a community who cared.  Midwestern hospitality.  

The numbers began to grow as those in need of services sought them here, where they could be found.   Many thought just doing a little more of the same would keep pace, but the problem had changed, and we were not ahead of it.  

In the past week: 9 people have overdosed in theimmediate vicinity of the Habitat office, our staff has witnessed multiple drug deals, needles have started to appear in the alley alongside our office, I have been threatened, people have been urinating on our building in the middle of the day, and volunteers have started calling to ask if it is safe for them to come to our office to drop off a donation or show up to volunteer.  While there are addicts who never become violent, the group appears to escalate together on frequent occasion.

This is not a homeless problem, it is a drug problem....

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Mother's Day and the Surprising Gift of Carpools

This Mother’s Day weekend I’m reflecting on how much motherhood has changed for me over the past 13 years.  From the sleepless single mom nights of wanting nothing more on the holiday than to go for a run without having to push a stroller and take an uninterrupted nap until I wake up on my own to the place I am today- looking at my children looking closer and closer to adults and wanting to keep them with me every second I can.  I’m finding those moments in surprising places this year, and creating them when I can.

Several times lately I’ve reflected on how much I love to drive the carpool much to the surprise of others.  A few months ago driving the kids became a near part-time job

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Riches with No Money

The trek to this village was a long one, though the miles were few.  Paved roads gave way to boulder-strewn and rutted paths necessitating all of our 4 wheels to drive though at a pace barely faster than a walk, the steep inclines and descents would have tired us on foot for the day to be sure.  En route, we saw children filling the riverbed with the day’s washing, scrubbing hard on the rocks whose moss will never have a chance to grow.  Just meters away, their homes, 5 simple pieces of 4x8’ corrugated metal tied together.  Some of these children had the luck of living in a place so new it bore no rust...

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