The guys have been making some good progress on the roof. In the last two days they ripped off most of the other side of the roof and resheeted it (they had to take off the original 80+ year-old wood shake shingles and put down 4×8 sheets before shingling). The project has taken longer than it could have– a lot of crews could have done the whole roof in 3 days– but its getting done, and getting done well (you know what they say, you can only hope to get two of the three: quality work, good price, and timeliness– and I’ll usually take the first two over the third). Since my crew all ride bicycles, I’ve had to do a lot more running around. I’ve had to go pick up Kevin occassionally, or bring them lunch, or go help resolve disputes, calm people down, or motivate people. We have an agreed on price, but I’ll probably end up paying more, and I pay them piece-meal a little each day as they need it, which means trips to the bank each day. A traditional crew would have been no-hassle, not much more expensive, and I would have been at a happy distance, not involved in the work or lives of those putting on my roof.
But its very rewarding to choose to do it this way. Guys who don’t usually get a chance are. They are getting some money, keeping busy, and doing something that gives them some pride. As people have seen them working, they’ve now been offered some other roofing jobs (but, like one of them said, its quite difficult to haul roofing supplies on bicycles). They genuinely appreciate the work and my trust– you can tell that every time they shake (or bump) hands with me every day.
This week at Simple Free we read from passage from Luke 9 where Jesus says “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” Now I’m hardly a martyr, and few of us are in the traditional sense of actually dying. But there is some sense in which I can identify with this when I find my days being ‘eaten up’ by various requests from my guys throughout the day. I love having the guys come over every morning at 8:30 for coffee, and its an important part of their day, and mine– but its a regular commitment on my part, and when we don’t do that– when I don’t give them a good reason to get up, and give them something to do– things don’t usually go well for them. Last week Richard (who hasn’t drank for almost a year) said, “I gotta keep finding stuff to keep me busy. Its hard when everyone around me is drinking, and I’m trying to stay sober.” The work I give these guys isn’t just about pocket money, its work therapy. And it does eat into my life. And I love that most of the time. Its a way of giving up my own life– losing my life– but its also an easy ‘cross’ to bear.
Two days ago I was talking to Greg, and he said that a Sudaneese man in a suit had come by and asked if they needed someone to pick up the shingles that we on the ground. He said he’d do it for $10. Greg agreed, and the guy proceeded to take off his suit down to his swimsuit underneath (he even took off his shoes!) and he cleaned up the yard. When telling me about this afterwards, Greg said to me, “I appreciate what you are doing for us man, and I want to spread the wealth too!” That made me really happy. Greg does have a good heart, and he is helping out others as much as he can. Half the reason he took on this job was because he knew Kevin needed some work to stay out of trouble. Kevin brought his brother in law along to the job now because he knows he needs some money. And they all mutually encourage each other to stick with it (on good days).
The difficult thing about trying to get personally involved with guys like Kevin, Greg, Richard, Mike and Izzy is that life gets messy when you are dealing with people who have messy lives. It does take patience and extra grace sometimes. But these guys become like family because they realize you trust them and open up your life to them in a way which few others will. That makes it very rewarding, and makes it not seem like losing life, but like gaining it. God has definitely enriched my life through the lives of these guys, and I don’t regret it at all.