ISO a hunk of Styrofoam headed to the landfill.
My Wednesday started with this post to a neighborhood message board – in search of Styrofoam.
I’d purchased a pump for my bedroom air conditioner unit to draw the condensation up and out the window to save me from the muggy Chicago summer. It seemed simple enough to set up, even for someone with limited fix-it skills.
But there was a problem: I had no way to run the hose out the window without leaving a wide gap through which all the blessed, cool, dry air could escape.
I envisioned a hunk of Styrofoam to bridge the gap between the window and sill and through which I could poke the hose to vent the water outside.
But there was another problem: I am neither handy nor crafty.
In elementary school, I flunked cutting. While my classmates were busy cutting and assembling cool paper hats for the school play, I was sent to tidy up the backstage area.
In junior high school, I barely passed the mandatory home economics sewing class with all its measuring and cutting.
I aspire to be like Jesus. But I know his carpentry skills are too lofty an aspiration for this earthly life.
And yet – I figured, I hoped, I imagined I might be able to make a suitable contraption by tracing the open space in the window and hoping for the best. If someone would give me a hunk of Styrofoam, maybe I could cobble together something functional. And with Styrofoam, even if my first cuts were faulty (and let’s be honest, they probably would be), couldn’t I carve away a little bit more and then a little bit more until it fit?
I belong to a neighborhood Facebook group called Freebox. The idea is that you can post things you want to give away, and neighbors will respond and then pick up your discards. No money ever changes hands. There are daily exchanges of clothes, furniture, kitchen supplies, books. In the summer, there’s sharing of produce, herbs, houseplant clippings. Sometimes brand-new sewing machines find new owners. Outgrown kids’ toys find new love in younger families. Food feeds another household instead of being discarded before vacation.
I hoped to pick up a piece of Styrofoam that otherwise would have been headed for the trash.
Instead, I was asked: What are you going to use it for? What are the dimensions? Would you measure it to make sure? OK, how wide is the hose you’re using? Would you double-check the window depth?
And that afternoon, a neighbor crafted me a custom piece to fit my window and meet my needs. A neighbor, who was until this interaction a stranger, sawed and sanded, measured and glued, finished and finessed a piece for a hapless fellow Chicagoan.
I’m crafty, she assured me. I recently constructed a similar thing for my window and it was tricky.
Made of foamboard better than cheap Styrofoam, finished with care, crafted with grace. Not what I would have made on my own by a long shot. It’s probably the kind of DIY insulation block Jesus would have made.
Jesus asked, “Who was a neighbor?”
The one who showed mercy.
The one who went out of her way to offer time, kindness, skill and grace to the stranger.
That’s the beauty of Freebox. Strangers become neighbors over shared resources, helping hands, exchanges of grace and charity. A community arises when needs and burdens are shared with abundance and generosity.
Jesus doesn’t need me to be a carpenter – he has plenty of those. We each have our gifts. He desires neighbors who respond with mercy and grace to the needs of the community. That’s church. That’s the inbreaking of the kingdom. Free for all.