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The Stories We Can Tell 

John Sebastian was born in 1944, one of the “Boomer” generation.  He grew up in New York City, listening to the music of Burl Ives, Woodie Gutherie, Mississippi John Hurt and Lightnin’ Hopkins. In the early 1960’s he founded the band “The Lovin’ Spoonful” which had many top charting songs and albums for several years.

The song “Stories We Could Tell” was written by Sebastian, but I don’t know if he ever recorded it.  I first heard the song performed by guitar greats Dan Crary and Beppe Gambetta as part of their “Synergia” album.  Although the song talks about being on the road as a traveling musician, the overall theme is valid for MDS volunteers, especially volunteers who’ve served together several times.

Talkin’ to myself again,  wondrin’ if this traveling is good

Or is there somethin’ else worth doin’,  That we’d be doin’ if we could


But oh, the stories we could tell  And if it all blows up and goes to _ well,

I can still see us sittin’ on a bed in some hotel,   Singin’ all the stories we could tell

I think all MDS volunteers, in some form, ask the question “Is there something else worth doing, that we’d be doing if we could?”  For the past 17 years, the answer for me is there is nothing like the outright JOY of serving on an MDS response project. Between solving problems and fitting together the pieces of the puzzle of rebuilding hope, plus meeting a lot of great people, there is little doubt that this is where I want to be.  Others must arrive at the same answer, because I see many of the same long term and weekly volunteers serving together and collecting stories that we can tell.

MDS volunteers rarely sit around on hotel beds, but we do gather almost each evening.  This might be in the dining room or lounge area.  Some gathered in the back parking area to watch Jupiter and Venus come closer to each other in the early evening sky.  At the indoor gatherings games of Rook, Five Crown, or Wizard are played. At any possible gathering, stories are told.

Remember that guitar in a museum in Tennessee

The nameplate on the glass brought back twenty melodies

And the scratches on the face told of all the times he fell

Singin’ all the stories he could tell


And oh, the stories it could tell

And I’ll bet you it still rings like a bell

And I wish that we could sit back on a bed in some hotel

And listen to the stories it could tell

Many MDS tools have been in service for more than 10 years.  The scratches and dents affirm that the tools could tell some amazing stories about the homes they helped build or repair.  Unlike guitars, which tend to sound better with age, most MDS tools eventually wear out, but they are definitely part of the stories.

At the MDS Elgin tornado response, the hands of weekly volunteers holding and using the tools this week came from Michigan, Indiana and Pennsylvania.  The bunk beds, dining room and crew trucks were full, with work going on each day at all five of our new homes.  The scheduled weekly volunteers for 4 weeks in a row are at our maximum capacity, and the work has progressed at a maximum rate.

Each day the house for Ms. Cristina is getting nearer to being complete.  The final five percent of completion is always the hardest, especially when some needed items, like interior doors and trim are late being delivered.  But, dedication day has been set, so we have to “get ‘er done”.  We made a concerted effort on Thursday, prior to the night of heavy rains to complete the trenching and conduit installation for the electric service into the house. The mini-split HVAC units were installed and are ready for power to be connected, so they can be used during final clean-up and dedication.

At the home of Mr. Refugio, the lessons learned on the first house have enabled completion to move along at a faster pace.  We learned that we can sometimes “beat the system” and get things even when the local stock levels are at zero.  Since the client works long hours driving a truck every day, our volunteers have had few chances to meet him, but we know through his son that the completion of the home is eagerly awaited.  The HVAC work and underground electric service work was also completed at this house, so we are 40% done on that critical part of the project.

Mr. Leonard’s new home is now past the dreaded drywall finishing stage.  Interior painting is done and the house is ready for installation of the flooring that was finally delivered.  He is getting a ramp to ease his steps into the house and that work was being done along with the interior mudding and painting.  Mr. Leonard was in the hospital with pneumonia this past week, but kept up on progress through his brothers.  He also made the phone calls needed to get his electrical power connected.

Up on the hill above FM 1704, the house for Mr. Doyle saw all of the interior walls defined by having drywall installed.  Outside work included the footers for a ramp, side porch and front steps which also saw a lot of progress.  By the end of the week, drywall taping and mudding was started.

Out east of the town of Elgin, the house for Ms. Patricia is keeping pace with the progress on the other houses.  The only work that remains is for the ramp, side porch, stairs and railings.  The inside is about equal with Mr. Doyle’s house as the final drywall hanging was completed.  Taping and mudding is ready to be started.  The crew there is treated almost daily with doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, fresh fruit or lemonade.

One of the consistent blessings of the work here in Bastrop County is the Friday noon lunch by Ms. Cristina.  The menu this week was homemade “flautas” with rice, beans, guacamole, and some of the best salsa verde I have ever eaten.  The warm sunny weather after the heavy rain and wind of the night before, provided just the right setting for enjoying this special meal.  Another benefit of the warm weather is the Texas Bluebonnets in Cristina’s side yard and all along the highway are starting to pop up and open.  We look forward to a bumper crop of the little blue lupins as we move into March.

And oh, the stories we could tell

And before we have to say our last farewell

Well, I wish that we could sit back on a bed in some hotel

And listen to the stories we could tell

Yes, I wish that we could sit back on a bed in some hotel

And listen to the stories we could tell


We’ve reached the end of another four weeks for our long term volunteers.  They have seen and been part of the great progress on the houses.  They have eaten the great meals prepared by our cooks.  We end the month of February with a bank account that reconciles to the last penny. We have enjoyed several client visits and weekend trips to see local sights.  But most of all, we depart with stories.  They are stories we’ll tell our friends and family back home, and stories that may become legends, told on future MDS trips.

From the Elgin Tornado MDS response, Bastrop County, Texas.

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

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