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Come, sit: Our picnic table workshop

Picnic table workshop

Picnic table workshop

When we at the Huss Project start to describe our vision, the words, “people” and “food” tend to come up pretty often. We love people. We love their stories, ideas, passions, interdependence, achievements, and potential. We also really like food: as a host to conversation, as a reward of a good harvest, as a common tie between all people. So, when we set out to build picnic tables — which act as both supports for people and settings for food — we knew to do justice to these two loves, we needed to build these tables right.

Using a generous grant from the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM) we bought enough lumber and hardware to build eight full-sized picnic tables. With the kind and experienced guidance of local woodworkers John Howie and Willard Fenton-Miller, our team of neighborhood volunteers measured, sawed, bolted, and hammered one very sturdy table into existence with the wood for seven more cut and readied.

In our work to turn Huss School into a community space, we are constantly fueled by what Huss could be and encouraged by what it has become. The literal and symbolic beckoning to the community of “Come, be” is intrinsic to what we do. We try to say, “Come, share” through hosting our community storytelling nights. We say, “Come, grow” through our work in the Triple Ripple Community Garden and “Come, play” through the festivities of Future Fest. It was our desire to say to the community: “Come, sit” through the fruit of this picnic table workshop.

John and Willard patiently demonstrated to and encouraged our team of varying experience. As we measured and cut the wood, aligned the pieces on Willard’s custom jig, layer the tops and screwed on the support beams, we saw our place of “come, sit” begin to take shape.

I was taking a turn mulching in the garden when the first table was finished. I saw the four newly minted craftsmen and two seasoned carpenters carry the table, upside down, in the hot sun and slowly turn it upright onto the concrete. They looked at it, pushed against the braces, leaned on the wood: testing their handiwork before all six climbed in and sat. I leaned on my shovel, admiring their joy in their completed work when one person turned to me. “Come, sit,” he said. So I did.