Do you remember when you were young and a year seemed like an eternity? Time was not something I viewed as a precious commodity when my whole life lay ahead of me. As I have aged, however, time is becoming increasingly precious to me as it seems to be flying by – and to be honest, it scares me a little.
There are so many things that I want to do, big and small, but as a working wife, mother, grandmother, sister and niece, I find that the days fill up months in advance. And I don’t always make the time for things like giving back.
So earlier this year, I marked a day off for volunteering in the community, and recruited 19 other women to join me to help build a Habitat for Humanity house – one that is being built by women for a woman and her family. I’ve done this before, so I assumed that we would have the assistance of a male construction supervisor as in the past, and we would paint or maybe hammer a little, nothing too complicated.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. First, this project was headed by three experienced, construction savvy women supervisors who clearly knew what they were doing. Secondly, we were putting up ROOF TRUSSES!!! Those are the A-Frame supports for the roof – they are big, heavy and there were A LOT of them. Lastly, there was no crane or heavy equipment in sight; just scaffolding that we put up and climbed on, our expert supervisors to guide us, and a great deal of overhead lifting accompanied by much grunting and puffing.
We learned pretty quickly that we had to substitute technique for muscle, and that teamwork and coordination were required for safety and success. Listening and following directions (not easy to get 20 professional women to do that at the same time) were also mission critical. But at the end of the day, we had the trusses up and nailed in place, awaiting the next group of volunteers who would finish off the roof.
As we sat draining our water bottles at the end of the day, we discussed what we’d accomplished. We all felt that this was not a “fun” day – it was hard and challenging work, and we were all out of our comfort zones. It was also scary at times, as missteps may have had some serious consequences. But our exhilaration with what we accomplished made it a great day, as did knowing that a woman and her family would benefit from what we helped build.
I guess it’s like so many things in life that we can’t do alone. We need to listen to a knowledgeable, experienced person when we are unsure, to follow through on their guidance, to be tenacious in finishing the job even when we are tired and worn out with our efforts. So you know I’m going to draw the parallel with financial health! So many women tell us in our surveys that they don’t understand the financial world, that they will save later, that they don’t know where to turn for help. Iit’s not fun, and in fact it’s pretty hard work.
All that is true for many, but it seems more so for women in our surveys. So perhaps if you mark that day off on your calendar, find some expert advice, do the hard work of creating a budget and a plan, and then tenaciously follow it even with the going gets rough – you will look back at what you’ve accomplished with the same exhilaration as building a house.