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Give Back... and tell the story

Solid Rock Carpenters and Appalachian Service Project

Recently, my travels took me to Los Angeles to meet with a group of architects and design professionals who are the epitome of “giving”; from there, I flew to Johnson City, Tennessee to build houses through Solid Rock Carpenters (www.SolidRockCarpenters.org) and Appalachian Service Project (www.ASPHome.org) with a group of volunteers for families in need. In reflecting on this journey –– because it was one in many senses –– I realize it’s time to take a stand not only to give back, but also to tell the story.

Think about the top social ills that we hear about today: mental illness and depression that leads to isolation and in some cases, desperate acts. Perhaps related, the Internet and increasing isolation and loneliness; economic divides between the haves and the have nots; our “leaders” turning against one another instead of collaborating. Give Back… and tell the story.

I’ll start with a response to that last one … the architects I met with in L.A. are part of a Mastermind group I’m involved in, sharing best practices and implementing changes to our practices that are good for the client, good for the project team and, often, good for the community. Though we are all in the same profession, the people I spent time with shared everything about what’s working and helped each other through what’s not. So that part of the journey was on an intellectual level. 

Solid Rock Carpenters and Appalachian Service Project, on the other hand, are working on basic needs, at a physical level, hands-on construction. Our purpose is to create something that will give others a solid foundation for their lives –– shelter, warmth, protection for their families. As put by ASP, our mission is to help families to be “Warmer, Safer, and Drier.” On this stop in Johnson City, TN, there was a range of volunteers, including recent grads, many of them going on to unrelated fields. It was gratifying to share construction technique, good carpentry, and watch them pick it up and carry it forward. Together we built three new homes in only a week. Give Back… and tell the story.

As you probably already know, you don’t have to travel hundreds of miles to help someone be warmer-safer-drier, to borrow Appalachian Service Project’s motto. Near or far, the results are sure to go a long way, both for the one who receives and the one who gives. In Tennessee, the people who will live in the houses we built would come by before or after going to their jobs, eager to meet the volunteers who, with no explanation, had come to help. The power of that emotional connection doesn’t require explanation, however.

Making connections, helping others and sharing the stories of helping others will go a long way to combat our social challenges on every front. Think about what I listed at the top … The news is enough to make anyone feel down. But what I experienced in my recent multi-stop journey was a direct antidote to all of those problems. 

It’s as simple as stepping out of your day-to-day routine, asking how you can improve the world around you … mentor someone, fill a need, help someone be warmer, safer or drier.

If you already do give back, then you know the value. It doesn’t have to be with Solid Rock Carpenters or Appalachian Service Project. However you help, my challenge to you  is that now is the time to amplify that by sharing your story with others and recruiting them to come along, as well … This isn’t something I would normally do, but it’s obvious the world needs our help. Let’s tell our stories and inspire some good. Give back… and tell the story.