So I took my day off on Friday and got to be part of building one of those KaBoom! playgrounds and while I didn't feel very productive for the first half of my time there, I certainly did for the second part.
I used to volunteer at Nueva Luz my first year of college and I loved it. This was probably first time in my life that I knew I would be coming back to this city because I saw how much there needed to be done. For being a much more conservative denomination, there was a strong love for people in the community that I was drawn to and they did everything. HIV/AIDS counseling, referral, and emergency housing, food and clothing distribution, community development. There were thirty of us sleeping in the house next door, with almost no heat and one bathroom (no small feat when 25 of us were girls), living on spaghetti and peanut butter and bagels.
Sunday morning services were in Spanish and English and these old hymns I remember from my childhood were done with much more percussion and energy and people were dancing and when it came time to greet each other, it was done with hugs and welcoming in three different languages. In the mornings we'd help out with whatever projects they were doing and in the afternoon we'd hang out with the kids in the neighborhood who played in the yard at the church and at the parking lot next door.
Over time, I got to know some of the kids, got to meet their families, hang out on their porches, going to their high-stepping competitions and seeing what they had to deal with. I remember Andy, the pastor there, giving us $200 and sending us out to K-Mart to buy one family of kids Christmas presents because they weren't going to get anything that year, and while there was a TV in every room, there were no warm blankets or pillows on the beds or much of anything else.
All of them have moved away since there, but it felt so good to see this finally happen for the next generation at least, holding a swirly slide together so someone could put the screws in, painting designs and games on the parking lot, shoveling mulch and putting benches together to a soundtrack of latin music and old-school hip-hop. meeting people from all walks of life, from Keybank employees to construction workers and church people to the neighborhood pot dealer. It didn't matter who you were, just that you showed up to help and seeing this whole thing get put together and how excited the kids were about it... it was just great.
I remember thinking that if I could do stuff like this for the rest of my life, I would be completely happy. As it turns out, I have a job with pretty conventional hours, but I have vacation time and weekends and at this point, I'm going to keep on doing stuff like this in my spare time.