the people wore on me…or is it grew on me?

In BVS we talk about cold climate vs. warm climate cultures. In a warm culture, people are friendly, get to know you, and always see how you’re doing before getting down to business. Cold cultures are business-minded. No one wants to hear about your problems; just take my money and let me get on with the day. I am very much aware that I fall in the latter.

Even in college, when I signed up for Brethren Volunteer Service, my mindset was one of cold computed justice. I decided before graduating that I was being led to volunteer for a year in New Orleans. A hurricane had trashed things pretty thoroughly, and I would help fix it. Not because my heart bled for the recently homeless, but because something wasn’t right but I could help fix it. Here I was, making a huge life decision – basically resigning to be selfless for a year or two – and it was more out of anger than compassion. At first, I tried to work as hard as I could, sometimes through lunch, and didn’t get bogged down in survival stories or feelings or other human things.

I realized pretty quickly, though, that rebuilding people’s homes is kind of hard to do without involving the people. They like to pick things like curtains and paint colors. Skipping lunch didn’t help either. Slowly, over the next few months, the people wore on me. Or is it grew on me? Maybe both. I started to put tools down when the owner showed up. We’d talk; They’d tell their story and I’d just listen.

Work progressed more slowly, but, after being thanked by homeowners week in and week out, it started to dawn on me that something much greater than drywalling was going on here. People’s lives were being transformed, healing was taking place and the only thing they could do was give back: cooking lunch for us, taking us to lunch, maybe cooking us another lunch that week. It was surreal. It was like they cared or something!

Don shared this reflection on Service Sunday at his church, and posted it over on the Elgin BVS House blog. Are you warm climate or cold climate? Are there people who have worn or grew on you and convinced you to slow down, fix less, hear more?

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