My wife and I volunteered to teach art and science sections of a Vacation Bible School program at our church. Judy initially thought she’d assist two teachers who would develop science projects and lead lessons. She discovered, too late to back out, that she was the only volunteer. I knew that she’d have difficulty getting through the week by herself, so I agreed to be her assistant.
We ended up having a good time working with interesting kids. Some were unwilling attendees who needed gentle coaxing to participate. We taught them about rocket propulsion by firing balloon-powered missiles along strings running to a planet Mars target. We gave them materials and let them work out designs for Martian landers. Their payloads were marshmallows. If a lander set down gently and didn’t dump cargo on the floor, the budding engineer could eat the marshmallow. One girl made a parasail out of construction paper and string. Her lander floated down slowly with stately grandeur. Her marshmallow barely wobbled at touch down.
Judy and I didn’t know if any of the projects would work and felt trembly at the start of each day. Flopping in front of groups of fifteen to twenty kids can be painful. But by the end of the week our confidence grew, and we had the satisfaction of watching kids learn to enjoy science as they tried new things.
Earlier this summer, Judy and I took a short vacation at a state park in northern Florida. The cabin had a screened-in porch where we sat mornings and evenings to catch a breeze and look out over a lake. I studied the construction of the porch, the screen door and the deck. I made the mistake of saying, “I think that I could build something like this on our front porch.” Judy’s eyes popped wide open. Oops.
I started on the porch at the end of June. I finished the supports this Monday. I’ve got two weeks left before my regular work schedule kicks in. Three steps remain: fill in gaps between the support frame and the porch roof; build and hang a door with a latch; make screens and install them in the support framework.
I had hoped to finish the project by our anniversary in late August but know now that I’m not going to make it. Perhaps I’ll reach completion by the end of September. Problems keep multiplying, but I’ve been able to figure them out so far. When I run into difficulties, I stare at a trouble spot until an idea pops into my head. Then I discover as I cut, sand, paint, and drill whether my plan works.
I’ve never done a project like this before, and in some ways it feels like I’ve jumped from an airplane without fully understanding how my parachute works. The experience is stimulating and somewhat terrifying. But this exercise in physical labor and problem-solving has given a lot of satisfaction. Every time I step back and take a look at the porch, I see tangible evidence of progress. That doesn’t often happen to me any more.