U.S. | Go to Canada Site

Why Walk When You Can Fly 

Mary Chapin Carpenter was born in Princeton, New Jersey in the late 1950’s.  Her father was an executive with Life Magazine, while her mom was a folk singer and guitarist, from whom Mary learned to play guitar and ukulele.  She played in local folk venues as a teenager, and while attending Brown University.  She was encouraged to be a full-time singer-songwriter around 1981.

In 1995, her fifth studio album,”Stones on the Road” received a Grammy award for “Best Country Album” and she received the “Best Female Country Vocal” Grammy award for the fourth straight year.  On that album, several songs reached the top 40 ranking on country and adult playlists.  “Why Walk When You Can Fly” fell just short of being a Top 40 hit, reaching number 47 at its highest.  She wrote every song on the album, sealing her place in the top tier of country and folk singer-songwriters.

In this world there’s a whole lot of trouble, baby

In this world there’s a whole lot of pain

In this world there’s a whole lot of trouble

But a whole lot of ground to gain


Why take when you could be giving,  why watch as the world goes by

It’s a hard enough life to be living, why walk when you can fly

By definition, Mennonite Disaster Service goes into places where there has been a whole lot of trouble, pain and destruction.  Its volunteers respond to the challenge of giving instead of taking.  Through their efforts, they see ground gained against the destruction that preceded their presence.  As Chapin Carpenter wrote, life is hard, but MDS volunteers often experience the feeling of flying high as the work of restoring hope happens around them as a result of their efforts.

At the MDS Elgin Tornado response, things moved along pretty fast over the last week.  With 18 weekly volunteers from Ohio, Minnesota and New York, we had enough workers to stretch all 5 of our crew leader’s abilities.  There was something going on at each of the 5 new build houses every day of the week.  The big topics of discussion in the leaders meeting each evening was how to get the needed materials to each house just in time and how to distribute tools to the crews who needed them most.

One of the best deliveries of the week happened on Tuesday, as five sets of kitchen cabinets arrived from the Kansas MDS Cabinet Shop.  These beautiful pieces of excellent materials and fine workmanship were delivered without any cost to the local project.  Donations of volunteer time for assembly, trucking and funds for purchasing the fabrication shop, plus getting the needed materials are all greatly appreciated.

One of the other deliveries was actually a pick-up event.  I traveled to Houston to the regional WilsonArt facility.  The team there loaded the countertops for all five houses on the MDS trailer.  WilsonArt Houston is among those vendors who have partnered with MDS in Central Texas since 2012, treating MDS as a wholesale customer.  They say they do that to support what MDS is doing to help people after disasters, including wildfires, hurricanes, flooding and tornados.  These types of partners help save funds for purchasing other items needed for the new houses.

At house #1, the work was flying along both inside and outside the walls.  The side porch, stairways, and all exterior railings were completed.  On the inside, the floor was cleaned and prepped for the vinyl plank floor, which was delivered on Wednesday and installed 100% by end of day Friday.  The outside work included painting a first coat on all the interior trim and doors, plus fabrication and assembly of the window jambs.

Up the hill at house #2, the final swipes of drywall mud, sanding and painting of all the ceiling and walls were finished.  The carpenters who’d done the exterior railing at house #1, moved to this home and repeated their quick, yet high quality work.  The volunteers may not have looked like they were flying, but the pace of work sure gave that impression.

At house #3, the drywall was delivered on Monday.  Hanging was almost completed the same day.  Taping and mudding followed and by the end of the week, only about a day’s work remains before the interior is ready to be primed and receive the final paint colors.  On the exterior, the side porch and access ramp were laid out and installation was well on its way by Friday.

At house #4, the work was focused on exterior siding and interior rough-in of plumbing and electrical.  The siding crew continued their high-flying pace of work.  Starting on the lowest runs of siding, that can be reached from the ground, to the highest peaks at the end gables, reached using the scaffolding and ladders, the crew quickly turned Mr. Doyle’s house from Tyvek white to Timber Dust tan.  The interior rough-in workers were not to be out-done, and finished their work so that the Open Wall inspection was passed on Thursday.

House #5 is the farthest away distance wise, but the crew working on Ms. Patricia’s new home might have actually moved a little closer to the progress of house #4.  They did not wait for the siding crew to arrive, but installed all but the highest runs of fiber cement planks working from the ground and ladders.  Rough-in work progressed as well, and the inside is ready for Open Wall inspection which is planned for early next week.

In this world there’s a whole lot of cold

In this world there’s a whole lot of blame

In this world you’ve a soul for a compass

And a heart for a pair of wings


There’s a star on the far horizon, rising bright in an azure sky

For the rest of the time that you’re given, why walk when you can fly

Our base in Bastrop County is located in an area that has few night lights.  So, after the wonderful evening meals prepared by our cooks, we can see the display of the stars on uncloudy nights.  Some of the “stars” that are visible now are actually planets, whose constant glow is the first to appear as the sun sets.  This past week, as the crescent moon traversed between Venus and Mars, the scope of God’s creation is there for all to see.  The planets are at yet unreachable distances from our earth, yet we know the twinkling stars are even light years farther.

With our souls as compasses and hearts for wings, we feel like we are flying toward the completion of these five houses.

From the MDS Elgin response, Bastrop County

Bernice, Brenda, Edith, Joanna, Laura, Andrew, Jay, Jason, Jonah, Mike, and Carl

Related Reports

See More Weekly Reports