Phylis’ letter: You can’t put a price on inspiration

August 15, 2019

Phylis’ letter: You can’t put a price on inspiration

This year, Habitat Omaha will host three Rock the Block events, which bring together neighbors, community partners and volunteers to revitalize a neighborhood block in just one day. Phylis’ street was revitalized during the year’s first Rock the Block held in Omaha’s Minne Lusa neighborhood. She wrote the following letter, reflecting on how the experience has changed her home, her neighborhood and her outlook.

I was part of the May 2019 Rock the Block event, and I wanted to take some time and tell you about all the good things I see that have happened as a result of your efforts in our neighborhood. 

When I first became aware that Rock the Block was coming, I imagined I would get some help with painting trim and maybe some new bushes. At the end of the letter [sent to notify neighbors of the event], there was one very prophetic sentence which read, “Don’t forget to think big”! As the preparations started in the weeks before the event, and I chatted with the teams of workers who came out to plan the projects, things evolved that I couldn’t have imagined. The perfect example was one such morning, as a group stood under my carport, Randy [Habitat Omaha Construction Supervisor] looks up and says, “You’ve got a leak in your carport.” There ensued some conversation about how that could be remedied and what it would cost, and whether it was in the Rock the Block budget, but in the end, I can tell you that there now exists a very solid, custom built beam that is level all the way across, and that carries for me the memory of the team that I got to watch build it out of the love they had in the hearts for a total stranger. Had Randy not noticed, the conversations not taken place, the money not existed, and the volunteers not stepped up, I would likely have one winter ended up with a carport either on top of my vehicle or on top of my neighbors’ vehicle. And I really like my neighbors! I also got beautiful new back steps and a stoop, which my dogs can be seen lounging on like their own personal deck, so needless to say, I’m extremely pleased, but the event actually caused a lot of unseen changes beyond the obvious ones.

When you look around, and you see a lot of things that need doing, and you don’t have the help or the cash or whatever it is you need, it can be pretty overwhelming. After the event, I was inspired. You can’t put a price on inspiration, but I did find two burning bushes in the clearance aisle for $2.25, and I decided it was a sign that I needed to use them for my little patio sunblock that was started during Rock the Block with the planting of a large hydrangea. Then, I found some pavers for the backyard – a project I had imagined for most the 25 years that I’ve owned the house. It’s a residual effect of having had someone come in and say, “Let us help you. We’d like to get you started.” Next on my list is to clean out the shed. I don’t see an end to this new found inspiration in sight.

Last but not least, I am looking forward to volunteering at Habitat. Volunteering has been a big part of my life since I was an adolescent, and I’ve taken some time off recently to deal with the death of my fiancé in January, but as I’m beginning to heal, I’m thinking of how restorative it is to be part of humanitarian efforts and to be around other people who feel the same way. The people who converged on our block in May are not uncommon, but we forget between instances like these how many good and decent people are always out there, willing to lend a hand. 

So thanks to all of you for the great things you’re doing. I loved the event – would have loved it even if I wasn’t directly involved as a recipient. This the way the whole world should work! 

Letter edited for content and shared with permission of the author. 

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