Power Tools

My dad can make, fix, construct, deconstruct, build or install just about anything. For those of you who know my dad, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Luckily, I had the opportunity to learn what to do (and what not to do!) by helping him with all of these adventures: installing a sprinkler system, tiling a floor, scraping the ceiling (that’s a story on it’s own) and the list goes on and on.  All of this to say, my dad took the time to teach me a valuable life skill.  Power tools are your friends!

Now, I know I am an unlikely wielder of power tools. I’m a girl. I’m short, I have freckles and long fingernails, but I can work a wet saw with the best of them. Given our shared experience of power tools, and our love of giving back to the community, I was really excited when my dad and I signed up to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.

When we pulled up to the build site, I saw that the houses were early on in the build process, which meant that the “light stuff” like painting and landscaping would come later. We were fully in the construction phase. Bingo! There were table saws whirling and saw dust floating through the air. When the table saws stopped, the site was punctuated with the sounds of nail guns. Power tool central!

We made our way over to the volunteer coordinator and asked for our assignments. I was imagining all the cool new tools I could try. I was ready for a challenge, ready to show my awesome skills, and work next to my dad.  So you can imagine my reaction when the coordinator gave me something that every power tool junkie wants – a hammer. A hammer?  A hammer!  Dumbfounded, I stared down at the hammer hanging in my hand. Perplexed, I turned and looked at the men wielding nail guns. I looked back at my hammer. And then, slowly, I looked at my dad. He could see it all over my face.  After a lifetime of relevant work, knowledge and experience, I had been instantly judged and deemed incapable of a greater contribution.

Unlike most, I had someone to vouch for my skills. My dad convinced our coordinator that I could hold my own and that he’d be there to help me if I needed something. It was a game changer. I spent the rest of the day working with the table saw and I accomplished a lot more than would have with a hammer. And for the rest of the day, the coordinator treated me differently and gave me more opportunities to contribute.

This experience was not unique to me. There are hundreds of homeless and low-income people in our community who are instantly judged because of the way they look.  Would you believe that the man sleeping under the overpass used to own his own construction company? Would you know that the man in rags at the soup kitchen used to be a college professor? These people don’t look like they have the right skills and experience to make a contribution. And if you believe that, if everyone continues to believe that, these people will never have the opportunity to demonstrate their value.

I believe that most people are looking for a way to apply their skills and to work their way toward a better life. Unfortunately, because of their looks, their current situation, or their past, many people will never have the opportunity to realize their potential and will never know the surge of confidence and pride that comes from having someone vouch for you. But, if you choose to look at each person as a contributor with a lifetime of knowledge and skills, it can be a game changer.

Regardless of the outside, I believe that each person has a set of power tools that they can use to build a better life. Sometimes they just need the right opportunity and someone who believes.

Dad, thanks for teaching this girl to use power tools and to believe in the power of others.

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5 Responses to Power Tools

  1. Dad says:

    Thanks Sarah. I thought if I showed you how to use the tools, that I could sit in the shade with a glass of iced-tea and watch you work.

    Funny you brought up power tools. When I was helping with Catholic Heart Work Camp, at the end when all the teams were describing their experiences, the team I worked with voted me as having the coolest tools.

    Could you stop by the house and fix the fence? I think one of the boards on the back fence is a little long…

    Love, Dad

  2. Karen Brinck says:

    Sarah, this reminds me of a story I read on yahoo news today about a homeless man who helped a young couple deliver their first child even removing the umbilical from around the baby’s neck. When the news media showed up the next morning at the truck stop to interview him he was gone. Great stories and good reminders.

  3. Beautifully articulated, Sarah! I love reading your posts.

  4. Pingback: Mission Memphis Day 22: Thanksgiving Day Project | Confessions of a Volunteer

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