What does a house mean?
Two houses (fraternities) volunteered at the ReStore this week. Phi Omega Alpha (shown above) and Sigma Alpha Epsilon (below) gave their time to help prepare our store for the rain, moving product indoors, covering what wouldn’t fit indoors with tarps, and loading or unloading trucks.
A “house” provides a sense of community within a largely anonymous population like the student body of a major university. Friendships are forged there that may last for lifetimes. Their house elicits loyalty and enthusiasm, passions that don’t really happen outside of community.
“Neighbor” means something different to homeowners than it does to house renters. Neighbors let one another know when they’re heading out of town so someone will watch their house, pick up their papers, and maybe water their yard. They help each other unload new washing machines or trim a tree that extends over both property lines. Their kids play together. They make small talk and sometimes big talk when they need to share with a person unlike others: someone who knows their street.
I built a house before I moved to Fresno, and I’ve purchased two since. I had a part in everything in the home I built. I merely moved into the houses I’ve lived in since. The one I remember best is the one I built.
Habitat for Humanity builds homes with the families who buy them. A community develops on those Saturday mornings. When the family receives its keys, the people who volunteered and worked side by side every week show up with cake and punch and cameras and pompoms to cheer as they walk into the home they built for the first time as owners.
A community of builders gives birth to a community of homeowners who together build generation-long relationships. Hammering and sweeping and carrying and unloading are insignificant in and of themselves, but doing them in community turns these simple acts into treasured memories.
Communities of builders, communities of homeowners, communities of neighborhoods.
That’s what a house is.