Saturday, May 21, 2016

Doing What Is Impossible

Bill, Linda, Jacques, Dominique, Dick, Jeannette, Margot, Larry, Cindy and Tim
"Start by doing what is necessary; then do what is possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." ~ St. Francis of Assisi
Dominique, one of our fellow Care-A-Vanners, shared that quote from St. Francis of Assisi during morning devotions at the Habitat for Humanity build where we've been working in Hobbs, New Mexico.  She said, "We see only the little necessary tasks we do each day, but together with the crews of volunteers who've gone before us, we are doing what is possible.  And ultimately, with all the work over the years of volunteers both local and from far away, we do what is impossible: we build a community of hope."

Morning Devotions

If ever there was a community in need of hope, it is Hobbs, New Mexico.  Situated on the barren edge between west Texas and the Chihuahuan desert, this city of 35,000 people has a exorbitant poverty rate, 20% for families and 32% for those under 18 years of age.  That last figure is the demographic that the Hobbs Habitat for Humanity seeks to serve.  Ninety percent of the Hobbs Habitat homeowners are single mothers, anxious to build a better life for their children.

Kevin and Leonard, construction site managers

In the past 20 years or so, the Hobbs affiliate has built over 30 homes.

Marisela's house is on the right at the end of the block.

Already in 2016, two homes have been completed and concrete slabs poured for four more, to say nothing of the one home that we labored to retrofit for Dora and her handicapped son.  

Cindy, Linda, Dora and Margot

During our two weeks here, we finished a home for Marisela, a single working mom with two young children.  Her home is all done, except for the final inspection by the city.

Clockwise from left are the moms: Jonnasha, Marisela, Israel & Mary

After all these years, the Hobbs Habitat for Humanity is finally showing a profit on the mortgages it holds for its homeowners and it's plowing that profit back into the construction of even more homes.  Much of the construction materials are donated.  The high school construction class contributes their labor.  Prisoners at the Lea County Correctional Facility build the cabinetry to be installed in the kitchens.  The City of Hobbs has turned over tax-delinquent parcels of land to Habitat, a huge gift for the affiliate.  As a result, construction by the affiliate has soared from building one house a year to finishing four or five annually.

Tim, Jacques, Bill and Larry

Bruce, a member of the Hobbs Habitat's board of directors, told me the board walks a fine line between offering a handout versus a hand up, a line that's difficult to delineate.  Prospective homeowners are vetted carefully.  References are interviewed, credit lines are checked and current homes are visited, all in an effort to see who might be a successful homeowner.  The board looks for those who demonstrate responsibility, who live as much as possible within their means, and who take pride in their families and current homes. Evidently, their careful examination of candidates has been hugely successful; only two homeowners have defaulted since the Hobbs affiliate began.

As for Tim and I, we're adding new skills to our repertoire with every build in which we participate.  I'm learning more than Tim since I started with no construction experience.  During this build, I learned to lay tile as well as grout and seal it.

I also helped to insert the kitchen sink and install bathroom towel racks.  

Jacques and Tim

And I painted, painted and painted some more while Tim nailed baseboards and hung kitchen cabinets and doors throughout the house.

Clockwise from lower left:  Team leaders Margot & Larry, Dominique, Jacques, Jeannette, Linda, Bill
Center: Dick

But what has been most rewarding has been getting to know the people who've worked alongside us.  That includes the moms who have shown up on Saturdays to work towards the number of sweat equity hours they need to qualify for a home and this crew of Care-A-Vanners who've come from Santa Barbara, Denver, San Antonio and Montreal.

Instead of a campground, the Care-A-Vanners here stay without cost on the property, next to the homes we are building.

That's been very convenient for our evening happy hours, something this very social group of RV-ers thoroughly enjoy.

Coupled with that, we've never been so well-fed as we've been at this build.  Community churches have treated us to breakfasts, lunches, suppers and pizza parties.

On a rainy day towards the end of our stay, as Marisela's home neared completion and the tasks dwindled, we ladies took time off to visit a tearoom.  We were still dressed in our grubby work clothes, but that didn't stop us from plopping a fancy hat on our heads and taking photos of our fun.  These ladies have a zany sense of humor as evidenced below.  It's been a great group of people to work with and I hope our paths will cross again in the future.

But even more importantly, I hope the Hobbs Habitant for Humanity will keep doing the impossible---building hope for this community!


  1. It sounds like you had a great couple of weeks. We hope to make it out there sometime, if I ever get a chance to point the wildebeest toward the setting sun.

    1. If you need an incentive to come to New Mexico, the People of Hobbs treat their volunteers very well. The wildebeest would be very happy here!

  2. Thanks for the recap of your stay at Hobbs. Looks like you two are gaining excellent construction skills along your journey. Will you be there long enough to participate in the end of build ceremony? Enjoy the journey and be safe with those tools, Tim!

  3. Terry, We were not there long enough for the dedication. Hopefully, one of these days, we'll get to attend one, as I know that's a very special and moving occasion. We're in Santa Fe now for another build.

  4. I love the St. Francis quote and the blog post, too, which aptly illustrates it. I can't believe the skills you are gaining. The fellowship with those you are helping and those you are working beside looks amazing. Thanks for sharing the journey.