There's a popular country music song by Luke Bryan that says "rain makes corn, and corn makes whiskey, and whiskey makes my baby feel a little frisky." Well sure, I guess. But I do know that rain makes everything wet and muddy, and Western Oregon has a lot of it. You'd hardly notice that though if you spent a rainy Saturday in June building bunk beds with the people who live there because it doesn't phase them one bit.
SHP has added dozens of chapters during the first half of 2018, and one of the side effects has been having too few experienced SHP veterans to attend the inaugural build days for all of our new chapters. This requires everyone in the organization to step up and help, and it also means I get the joy of flying to new places. Such was the case last weekend when I flew from San Diego, California to Eugene, Oregon not knowing entirely what to expect other than that I'd get to build bunk beds for children sleeping on the floor.
With little more than a couple days worth of clothes and some work gloves, I landed in Eugene late Friday night and was greeted by Landon Mathews, the WA-Tri-Cities Chapter President, who also made the journey to help ensure that JP Wilson and his wife Kim had a successful first build as Presidents of the new OR-Umpqua Valley Chapter.
Meeting Up in Oregon
Going on high hopes and little sleep, the four of us set out towards the outdoor build site early the next morning. Upon arriving there, we were greeted by scattered clouds and half a dozen people eager to tackle the day. These people were new Chapter Presidents and team members from two other Western Oregon chapters, each looking to squeeze in some valuable time building beds before their own upcoming inaugural build days. After introductions and greetings, we began the process of unloading a trailer full of tools and setting up the "build train."
Lesson 1: Don't Doubt the Locals
It's important to note at this point that JP Wilson had assured me the previous night that we would get rain, but it would be okay because we brought plenty of EZ Up pop up canopies. Unable to detect any ominous, dark rain clouds anywhere at all, I started to think setting up a dozen EZ Ups was an exercise in being overly cautious- but I was wrong. It started raining the moment we finished setting up the last one. Lesson #1: Don't doubt the locals.
As the day grew old, the lumber got wetter, and the mud got muddier, and my heart took notice that these locals don't know the word "quit." Sanding pads gave out under the stress of sanding rain-soaked 2x4s and ill-timed pools of water dumped from EZ Up canopies onto unsuspecting volunteers' backsides. They joked. They laughed. They clearly and most unexpectedly (at least to me) enjoyed serving in whatever capacity they could so that Sleep in Heavenly Peace and its mission that "no kid sleeps on the floor in our town" could start to become a reality for the underserved children in their small Western Oregon communities. Their toughness and endurance was indicative of the kind of grit born from facing life head-on, rain or shine. To them, rain is just a metaphor for all that life throws at us, and hard work is their umbrella. Their stories are America's stories, and ones that we should never tire of telling.
Lesson 2: There are Always Good People Who Care
Everywhere we go, we see people who care about their towns and care about the children who don't get to enjoy the safety and comfort of going to bed and waking up every morning in their very own beds. In fact, they care far more about these children than they do about what they could be getting done around the house or what might be biting on the other end of their 10 lbs fishing line. The American spirit is alive and well.
Having sanded and drilled and branded headboards in Roseburg, Oregon alongside JP and Kim Wilson and their local cadre of do-gooders, as well as the new Chapter Presidents and team members from the OR-Josephine County and OR-Eugene chapters, I can confidently tell you two things:
- Western Oregonians are tough people, and this small part of the country is in good hands
- It's probably going to rain today. But recalling the other half of that Luke Bryan country song reference- rain is a good thing!