Howdy folks and welcome back!

I’m sure that you, like me, have had an absolutely crazy week. Hopefully, you’ll rest for a moment and reflect with me on the fact that every week is, in fact, crazy. Every. Single. One.

Think of when you run into friends at the store. When they ask how you’ve been, I almost guarantee that you use some form of the phrase “Life has been crazy.” It can be crazy good, crazy busy, or maybe even crazy bad, but at the end of the day, it’s still just crazy.

This week, I spent at least one night in Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia. I have worked with amazing staffers, had great conversations with volunteers, and taken way too many pictures of mountains. Between three hikes, one domesticated squirrel, and an insane amount of Ale 8, life has been (and I cannot stress this enough) crazy.

Weirdly enough, one of the few places I have found peace this summer between all the craziness has been on the worksites of ASP. Something about taking the time to be with other ASP members, or as I prefer to call them “ASPeople,” grounds me.  In a job that can often be so busy, fragments of stillness are not to be overlooked or underappreciated. Quite often, these moments literally force me to sit and be present in the conversation.

For example, this week I traveled to Kentucky where I met a homeowner named April. I must admit that when I initially went to the work site, I was drawn to a pet squirrel named Peanut that April’s family had raised since infancy. But as I played with Peanut, I began to speak with April and some of the volunteers. Working on her home, I found some of the hardest-working and most compassionate volunteers I have ever seen. I quickly realized that something deeper than just home repair was happening.

This is not the first time ASP has worked on April’s house. Last Summer, we were able to build a ramp and put up siding on her home. April said that she loved getting to know her volunteers and that her son enjoyed helping out so much that he decided to go into construction as a career.

April is fiercely independent, a trait that has seemingly been passed down to each of her five kids. She is also kind and humble, willing to speak with me for hours at a time about a variety of subjects. On my last day in the county, I visited her site to say goodbye and found her sitting on the ramp to the side of her house surrounded by volunteers. As I sat and spoke with them, everyone kept telling me how blessed they had been to work with one another. At one point, April told me “I know I will keep in touch with them because we are a family,” while some of the Group Leaders nodded their heads in agreement.

I was taken aback by how fast they had connected as a group. In my humble opinion, one of the reasons why is that they had taken the time to get to know one another. The volunteers knew the intricacies of April’s life. They had encouraged her kids and memorized the awards her son had recently received for construction. In return, April had taken the time to know her new friends as individuals— where they came from and why they came.

Over 5 days, they had bonded with one another by being in the moment despite all of the craziness at the worksite. Above the whirring of circular saws and the clanging of nails, they found moments of peace. During water breaks, they traded sandwiches and stories. What’s super cool is that instances like these, while unique, are not rare if we hold space for them in our lives. Being present in the stillness and finding calm in the craziness is a choice, one that I would argue is worth taking.

My takeaway this week is that while life is a wild and insane ride, it’s a trip worth rolling down the windows and enjoying. If we live life in the fast lane, we forget to enjoy the backroads in between the highways. Stop and smell the roses, point out every horse you see, and as one of my favorite songs by Pitbull says, “Feel this moment.”

So, if you see me at your local Walmart sometime in the near future and ask me how life has been treating me, be aware that my answer will likely have something to do with the word “crazy.” But without the craziness, I wouldn’t enjoy being still.

And for that, I am extremely grateful.

Lauren Rhodes

Story Gathering Intern