New Thing: Do A ‘Habitat For Humanity’ Day

Every year on my birthday I make a list of new things I want to try. Some of these are exciting and novel, a lot of them are shockingly mundane. Either way, it’s really fun, interesting, intentional way to add new things to my life. You can read about past adventures here.

In my fantasy life, I’m the sort of person who knows how to hang drywall. I’d be one of those women who buys old houses for $1, rehabs them single handedly, decorates them with jewel-toned mid-century furniture she found on the curb, and then sells the whole she-bang for a cool half-mil.


In real life, I’m a slightly-more-handy-than-average human who can assemble things from Ikea and just recently learned how to use wall anchors.
Which, P.S., I’m incredibly proud of.
All of this means that while I was very, very interested in doing a day of volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity, I wasn’t particularly interested in failing at power tools, in front of strangers, while assembling a family’s home. I like to do that in the privacy of my own apartment, thankyouverymuch.
But did you know that Habitat offers all sorts of different volunteer options? Like a landscaping?! Yes, I can totally dig holes and put flowering trees in them! Now you’re speaking my language, dudes.

You guys? Doing this was The Best. After my oddly disheartening experience writing a big check to charity I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but this was one of the best Saturday mornings I’ve had in ages.And I regularly attend the bottomless mimosa brunch at Dixie’s on Grand so you know this is pretty great.

Some of the volunteers were sweet, chatty master gardeners with the University of Minnesota’s extension service, so they could reel off suggestions about root balls and mulch like it ain’t no thing. Present and future Habitat homeowners pitched in and tiny neighborhood kids helped by transporting one little trowel of mulch across the yard at a time.

Our group was a mix of ages, races, genders, and backgrounds which made me realize how rarely I interact with people who are significantly different from me. When was the last time I talked, at length, with an teenage Ethiopian boy? Probably never. Or a middle-aged woman from Kerala, India? Well, probably when I was there – and not since. One of the things I miss most about teaching ESL is how it forced me outside my bubble. On a daily basis, it was a reality check, a heart and mind opener.

Our work day wrapped up early – because we’d been so enthusiastic with our digging and mulching – and the homeowner sweetily presented us with cinnamon tea and lentil samosas, refusing to let us eat any fewer than three. We nibbled the snacks and chatted about our weekend plans and made weather-prediction small talk.

More than almost any other new thing I’ve tried, I’d like to make this a regular part of my life. I’ll happily sign up for that wonderful exhaustion that comes from doing hard work outside, new friends, expanded perspectives.

Have you ever volunteered with Habitat for Humanity? Do you find yourself spending time with people who are just like you? 

P.S. 19 tiny things you can do to make the world a better place and paying off someone’s layaway plan.

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  1. Mika P.

    I recently made a 101 in 1001 list and I included that during these 1001 days (approx 2.75 years), I want to volunteer 66 times (which is about twice a month). So, I've definitely thought about Habitat for Humanity, and I'm excited to sign up- especially after this post! (: I'm glad you had fun and were able to help others in the process.

  2. Jen N.

    I'll admit, I've done Habitat a couple times here in Mpls, and I was overwhelmed by the whole experience. Hanging siding? Say what? But, now that I know there's a gardening option I might be more inclined to do it again.

    You should check out Open Arms of MN. That's where I'm going to volunteer next. You make and/or deliver food to people who have a serious illness. I've gone through orientation, I just need to sign up for my first shift. They also have a gardening option in the summer.

  3. Allison

    I honestly always thought of Habitat for Humanity as something that requires at least a full weekend commitment and probably traveling to Mexico or Central America somewhere (everyone I've known who has volunteered went with a group to work with an international chapter). I just looked up my local chapter and I'm totally going to do this (once I have a free weekend)!

  4. Stacia, Paper Swallow Events

    I am so glad that this was such a positive experience for you! I've actually never thought about doing one of these through Habitat for Humanity, but I've done a ton of service activities through church or friends. I love them. It's the best kind of exhaustion a person can experience!

  5. Mazharul Islam

    You In the event that check out Open Arms of MN. That's through which i am going to volunteer next. an individual make and/or deliver meal in order to anyone exactly who obtain a serious illness In here

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