All three of our boys are in Mexico right now over spring break. They are in Mexicali with a huge group of other high school kids from our church, so at this point, I’d like to formally apologize to the country of Mexico for anything my children may say or do while in your beautiful country. Deep down in their hearts they mean well, I think, but they are complete yahoos, especially when in close proximity to each other.
The group is building houses and holding mini church camps for the local kids. Son Number One and Two are on a construction team building a two-bedroom home for a family in need, and Son Number Three is on an “Impact” team, getting his butt kicked in soccer by niños y niñas half his age.
This is Number Three’s first year going on the trip, but One and Two got to go last year to build a house, and the stories they brought back were amazing. I mean, the family they build it for was great, and they were incredibly grateful, and it changed how my sons view the world and got them to understand how blessed they are to live in America with our abundance and prosperity and access to opportunities and all of that good stuff, but that’s not what was most amazing.
The thing that blew my mind about the trip was how fast you can build a house in a country with basically no laws.
If you ignore the whole child labor law hassle it really opens up the workforce. Granted, your average high school freshman isn’t necessarily a huge asset to a construction team, but you always need grunt labor alongside the skilled labor. Plus, you don’t have to spend a lot of time on human resources issues and paperwork with child labor, because they have no rights anyway.
The house they built had full electrical, with ceiling lights and wall outlets and everything, but that goes incredibly fast when you can just install all the wires and then immediately cover them all up with drywall without waiting for a city building inspector to show up and check everything first.
The same goes for the framing, plumbing, insulation, windows, roof trusses, shingles, etc. Just build it and move on. Get at least one person on the project with construction knowledge and a plan, add the proper amount of high school monkeys, and you can build an entire house in three days.
Literally. Three days. They had another day and a half of exterior and interior trim work and painting, but the house was up, functional, and weather-tight in three days.
This year’s trip leaders are keeping the Instagram feed stocked with enough progress photos that we’re able to tell that the current house is almost finished, and also, everyone seems to still have all their fingers. That’s a win.
If my Grandpa was still alive, he’d tell you about the time when as a young married man, he bought a lot in town, dug a basement, bought an old house across town, moved it over on a large truck, and set it on top of his new basement. My mom grew up in that house, and we got to go see it a few years ago, still standing.
Things used to be simpler, and they still are in places like Mexico. If you bring some construction know-how to the party, you can get a lot done in a short period of time. And it can be accomplished very inexpensively when you rope a bunch of kids into helping.
But only if you’re able to take away their cell phones.
You see, that’s the other thing that makes this all possible. Along with the absence of building inspectors and over-regulation, the kids don’t have access to their phones for the whole week. They are amazingly able to concentrate on and complete tasks.
If they were allowed to have their phones, that three-day house build would turn into six weeks, with 57,000 “I’m building a house” TikTok dance videos and two million selfies posing with power tools.
I don’t think my grandpa would approve.
See you soon,
Copyright © 2023 Marc Schmatjen
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