“If we only want to feast on the big ideas and the grand schemes and are unwilling to give our time and energies to seemingly small and limited tasks, to the thousands of baby steps needed to carry off our high concepts, then we will make little headway. Any calling requires a certain affection for drudgery.” — Gregg Levoy in Callings
A lot of our baby steps these days appear to be drudgery: digging the foundation for the bathroom addition, scraping putty to reveal old screws, clearing poison ivy and bamboo. There are certain mundane tasks that I love for the satisfaction of completing them and then there are others that are simply necessary to suffer through. As one of the smallest people working on the shed, it was my duty to crawl, squeeze, scrunch myself into the tiniest of spaces in the attic and staple up vents. Most of this work was done on my back suspended over rafters with the hopes that the pointy screws coming down from the roof wouldn’t nail me.
Thank goodness that good company transforms drudgery. That day we dug the ditch, Chris Colvard and Landy were there sweating with me all day. When I was up in the attic, Jeff Mansfield and David were cheering me on. Our workdays are both struggle and triumph, and not always in the same proportion.
David and I are not builders. We don’t have the budget to hire out most of the work we need to do, and we want to learn how to do more for ourselves. Still the work must get done and it must be done correctly and pass building inspections. We’re relying on the good-will and generosity of friends to advise us and work with us. I find my lack of knowledge and skill to be maddening. I find the work to tax my body – lifting heavy sheets of drywall, digging and shoveling clay, holding heavy drills. I am not accustomed to the physical toll of construction work. But I’m grateful to experience it personally so that I know, in some way at least, what the cost of construction is to those who do it day in and day out. Manual labor is not just the path to creating Common Home Farm, it is a core value of Catholic Worker farms. From The Aims and Means of the Catholic Worker:
— We strive for practices of manual labor in a society that rejects it as undignified and inferior. “Besides inducing cooperation, besides overcoming barriers and establishing the spirit of sister and brotherhood (besides just getting things done), manual labor enables us to use our bodies as well as our hands, our minds,” (Dorothy Day). The Benedictine motto Ora et Labora reminds us that the work of human hands is a gift for the edification of the world and the glory of God.
The struggle is not just in the physical work, it’s also trying to stay ahead of the voices of doubt and fear that threaten to overcome hope. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like every day contains real struggle (besides that of raising small children!). Sometimes that struggle is overwhelming. Like the day we found out that the small cabin (the one we are NOT renovating) needs a new septic leech field and we have to replace three windows and rebuild the stairs in the shed. When the work already feels hard and then it becomes harder, those are the days when I wonder if we’re really on the right path. Those are the days I get out Callings and read:
“If the sacrifice doesn’t put you out, doesn’t hurt a little or even a lot, it’s probably insufficient to bring on the changes you’re after…We need to give it all we have on one level and surrender completely to the way it is on the another…Sacrifice isn’t something we do once. It prompts our following a call, but it is also a component of living out that call.”
I also “zoom out” and think of all the people in the world who struggle in serious ways. I think of friends who are homeless in Bloomington, enduring a hot and rainy spring with nowhere safe and dry to sleep. I think of the guys I work with in the jail who are excited about the vision of Common Home Farm and ready to come for a retreat. Then I return to our project and our problems and realize that it’s simply a matter of money, time and perseverance. We are on the right path. The obstacles are there to teach us how to cope with the unexpected and to remind us to stay open and flexible. It’s my job, during this time, to learn a new level of resilience – and like all growth, it’s painful. Please hold us in the light as we take little step after little step toward making a beautiful, hospitable space at Common Home Farm.
**Fundraising update: We are still $6,200 away from raising enough money to complete the shed reconstruction. We are looking for six people who could contribute $1,000 each or 12 people who could donate $500. But no amount is too small. Please consider supporting our work with a donation. We are also actively seeking no-interest loans up to $6,000.
P.S. While I’m talking about the construction work I’ve been doing, I want to give proper recognition to David who is out at the farm 3-4 days a week getting things done. He’s just not writing about it! I lift up gratitude for him and for all the many volunteers who have come out for our workdays. We will continue to have workdays most weekends this summer – please reach out if you’d like to come share in some manual labor!