From my journal on July 4, 2016We're building a house at the bottom edge of the city dump. I just helped nail down the floor boards. The fourth wall is going up. Next, the roof. A chainsaw will slice through wood - madera - to open up one window and one door. From the window, this family can look toward a mountain view, green grass growing tall.
Behind their home, the only view is trash - basura. Piles of trash, mounds dotted with vultures and mangy dogs.
When we arrived, the homeowner spoke to me. My limited Spanish served me well. He is so grateful to God for this home. He has a son named Josue and a wife named Anna. Anna is pregnant, tiny baby bump under green and yellow floral. Vestido verde y amarillo flores. She smiles. Her husband tells me they had another child. That child died. I have to ask someone later, someone who knows this family, "Did I hear that correctly?"
I wish I'd misunderstood, but I didn't.
The smell here isn't as bad as we expected. This afternoon, as I write, escribo, the smell is either gone or I am used to it. I wish I could sprinkle the boards of this house with lavender oil, plant sweet-smelling flowers along the path, make even the air beautiful for Anna, mourning a child, raising a child, expecting new life at year's end.
What strikes me as I sit here is not what we have done, but what we cannot do. Systemic classism, poverty inescapable, a world that includes living at the edge of the city dump.
All I can do today is slip on my gloves, pick up my hammer, and build.