Trade in the Pencil for the Shovel

             Today the class and I helped out the people at Habitat for Humanity. Did we put a roof on a house? No. Did we install dry wall? No. Did we shovel dirt around for 3 hours to grade a front and back yard? Yes. Not exactly what I expected to be doing, but the monotonous physical labor gave my mind a chance to wonder and think about where we were and what we were doing.

            The yards and houses here all looked very similar even after people had moved in. Usually people “spice” up their yards and houses a bit once the move in, but here everything seemed clean. It turns out that even the community built by the hands of God, the ultimate master planner, has a home owners association. Aren’t these things usually evil?

            In “No Place Like Home” by Guterson, HOA’s are described as sanitized wastelands. These places are corporation like structures that merely present the clean, “welcome home” look. Like so many other corporations these days, they are corrupt as well. With everything looking sterile here, I wondered what the people from habitat would say today at lunch.

            In order for Habitat to function, everyone has to come together as a community. Your house and your neighbors are built with your hands. A good amount of time and effort goes into these homes. The HOA in this case is an investment and a protection of the time and effort. These places are looked down upon, even by city officials, as slummy. There is a need for these houses to maintain a certain level of appearance at all times. Local neighbor hoods fight habitat when they want to move in, as the speakers said. Their physical appearance simply mimics that which is around them, a quality that is very middle white America despite the fact that most of the residents here are lower to lower middle Mexican Americans.

            One of the closing comments made by the guest speakers was about them trying to recall if there were any handicapped children on the street. The one lady simply scanned the houses and recalled each family on the street. After going through them all, she said that none of the children were visibly handicapped. In the aforementioned article, there is a quote in that goes “The HOA is always watching.” The good ones as well I guess.



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