“…send down your grace upon us as we enter the Vasquez home. Help us realize that this is not just a house, but rather the home where their family ate their meals together, raised their children, spent holidays together and told stories to each other…” *
At the invitation of Houston Chapter members, eleven Affiliates from throughout the country came together in Brazoria, TX (about 1 ½ hours south of Houston) for a week of mission to help restore a home very seriously compromised by flood waters around the time of Hurricane Harvey in the summer of 2017. Countless elements had to fall into place in order to pull off such an ambitious undertaking – skill levels, personality styles, energy levels, the right tools, faith commitment, etc. Looking back on our time together, all exuberantly agreed that they did. Thank you, Houston Chapter!!
The work site - FEMA paid to have this 1962 mobile home raised some 3 ½ feet off the ground post flood. To say the home was seriously compromised or a fixer-upper, would be a gross understatement. It was a shell of a house with floors, walls, plumbing and electric (essentially everything) barely, if at all existent.
The crew (Mrs. Vasquez in red. Dick Nortsman, very active member of the crew had to leave early to teach his college class) – we were a senior workforce. Senior here is a reference to age, not long-standing ability. No one was under 60 and for a couple, 80 was just over a very small hill. Skill levels ranged from a former licensed contractor to those who might, on a good day, be able to distinguish a flathead screwdriver from a Phillips. The psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihalyi (author of Flow) wrote that, “It is not the skills we actually have that determine how we feel but the ones we think we have.” In truth, our foreman, Bob Kleeman kept us focused and on track (a euphemism for drove us hard 8 – 9 hours each day) so that by the end of the week, all the floors were down, sheetrock up, electrical in good functioning order, windows spiffy clean and the yard in much better shape. Throughout, levels of cooperation and mutual respect never left us. Small amounts of blood did, but, amazingly, there was nothing close to a significant injury.
The community – equally as wonderful as working together on the house was the sense of solidarity and mutual commitment during prayer and liturgy each morning and evening led by Fr. Gerry Kelly MM, and the heartfelt camaraderie during and around meals. Ruth Kleeman purchased the food and planned & prepared all the meals. Judy Norstman quietly supplied all the linens and had the rooms all ready when we arrived. I think it’s fair to say that all the 4 Affiliate pillars (community, spirituality, action and global vision) were present during this sacred adventure. If global vision might seem like a a stretch here, remember that for those of us outside of Houston (CA, NJ, FL & CT) Texas was a culture unto itself.
Going forward (Our "foreman" Bob Kleeman with Mrs. Vasquez) – This was such a life-giving experience that we all wondered if something similar, if less ambitious, might be duplicated in other chapters, other areas. While it's never possible to capture the breadth and depth of feelings that all of us experienced on this mission, it is clear that such experiences truly advance the Affiliate movement. Something to seriously think about. Again, thank you Houston!!
* Line taken from a prayer originally composed by Matt Rousso of the New Orleans Chapter.