This past week through the Motown Mission Experience in Detroit, we had the opportunity to participate in a variety of urban renewal projects. This included activities such as cleaning up abandoned lots, caulking windows, scraping and painting houses, and building projects.
For the first two days I participated in an activity scraping and painting a woman’s porch and railings. By the middle of the second day I had become increasingly frustrated. No matter how much paint we scraped off, there was still more loose paint. Other groups had been speaking the previous night about how rewarding their work had been, and that they had already made a difference with numerous projects. I began to feel unsatisfied in the work that I was doing because I could not see any progress on the project.
Right as this envy was beginning to happen, a second thought came upon me. It is easy to do something for others when we know we are getting something in return. Whether this is something more material, or merely acclaim, getting something in return makes the work easier. However, that is not why we are called to service. Service is not meant to be easy, and it should not be motivated by outside desires, but by a genuine desire to help someone. As I began to look at scraping the porch from that lens, everything became clearer. Yes, it would be easier for me if I had been placed on a simpler project that could be done quickly, but I am here for a reason. Even though scraping the porch for hours may have originally seemed like a burden, now it was an opportunity. Even though the task may be longer, this simple action had the potential to brighten the homeowner’s day every time they saw their newly painted porch.
The next day, a group of painters from Missouri went back and finished the painting project. Not only did they do an amazing job painting, but they went above and beyond and bought the homeowner some new silk flowers for her pots on the porch. Their simple resolve to make the woman smile greatly motivated me throughout the week.
During this time, I
was participating in a porch project down the street. The day before, a group had torn down the porch, and today we were resolved to build a new one. Through some hard work measuring and cutting boards, hammering nails, and addressing challenges as they arose, we finished the project. Before, the porch had been almost entirely rotted through. The woman who lived there could not walk out on her porch without the possibility of falling through the floor. Something that really stuck with me that one of the participants stated was, “ To us, we built a porch, but to her, we repaired her home.” Something as simple as us building a porch, truly did have a potential to change someone’s life. Now she has a place where she can socialize with her neighbors, wave at the neighborhood children, or talk to her mailman. To me, a porch represents a renewed sense of community, and the potential to draw communities closer together.
Above is a photo of the porch I helped build in conjunction with the Missouri Group from Jefferson City and Columbia. On the porch is the homeowner.