Editorial Note: A Helping Hand
Andrew reflects on the transforming impact that assisting a friend on his kitchen had on his family and on Andrew himself.
When I think practically about my skills swinging a hammer or using a drill, they don’t seem all that unique. My dad had a shop in our basement growing up. He showed me how to use tools, and I watched him build and fix all kinds of things around the house. When I got old enough to work on projects of my own unsupervised, I had the confidence that I at least knew how to use tools. Every project I’ve done since then has given me more confidence.
I took time this fall to help a buddy remove a wall between his kitchen and dining room. We dug around in the attic of his 1920s bungalow to see if there was any electrical or plumbing in the wall and if it was load bearing. We both arrived at the conclusion that it wasn’t, and then he hired a structural engineer to inspect and confirm. Finally, one Saturday morning, I packed up my kit of tools I’ve put together for working on my old house and headed over to his. Another couple of friends came by, too, to help and learn.
Old houses are always full of mysteries, and we spent most of the time talking through different approaches to issues that popped up based on what we’d all found in our other projects, and finally removing the wall and putting things back together. When the wall came out and a makeshift counter went in, the space was instantly transformed— more sunlight in the kitchen, a great spot for the kids to sit and eat breakfast or work on schoolwork while their parents cook dinner, and a plan to tie it all back into the original house and woodwork.
The 10 hours I spent over two days were truly life-changing for my buddy’s family; plus we got to solve some old-house mysteries, and I was fed well. I got to work next to friendly folks, crack some jokes, and get some time away and perspective on my own unfinished house projects. That sense of pride, of working alongside people you care about, to make lives better—it can’t be beat. Being able to build things and fix problems in a house sometimes feels like a superpower, especially when you’re talking to someone who doesn’t have that ability or confidence. While I’m adamant that folks should be compensated for the work they do, it’s not always about the money.
Andrew Zoellner, editorial director
The top photo originally appeared in the article Kitchen Uncovered.