What do you see in these two pictures?

When I first arrived at my new room at Free Spirit’s facilities a week after the New Year all I wanted to do was unpack my bags. Everything was going swell, the staff members were all coming by to introduce themselves and I was feeling very welcome, when I made a dire realization and slowly clenched my jaw and fist in frustration. I hadn’t brought any sandals. I didn’t bring sandals to Israel. The first thing anybody should pack for Israel is sandals, and I hadn’t brought any.

After the initial wave of frustration passed over, I resolved to purchase a pair at the next available moment. After a trip to Tel Aviv and my wallet becoming 80 shekels lighter, I had my sandals. Problem solved and feet finally comfortable, I thought no more about my sandal conundrum until the furniture you see in these two pictures.

In America, it often feels as if we have been conditioned to pass off repairs only to experts. People are afraid to break what they already own even more or just downright don’t want to be bothered with the handiwork. When something is broken or lost, we go to the store and buy a new one. If we are missing a key ingredient for a recipe, we run off to the nearest grocery store.

Instant gratification and convenience make us worship the finished product. If it doesn’t look pretty, why even bother. There is little to no appreciation for “the process.” We get a beautiful mahogany cabinet, but have no clue how to polish wood or where to hammer nails to reinforce the shelves.  The finished product is praised, but the assembly and components alone are ugly and unappreciated.  We praise the furniture as beautiful for being aesthetically pleasing, but there is much more to appreciate then how much the rug ties the room together.

What do I see in these two pictures?

Both of these tables were made as group projects with members of Free Spirit out of entirely recycled wood and nails from around the Kibbutz. The first table pictured has become a massive space saver for us in our kitchen and was assembled during my first week on the Kibbutz. I had never worked with wood and power tools before, but fondly reminisced about my love of Legos as I acclimated. It was also a wonderful opportunity to get to know Uri and the history of Hazorea. The table pictured on the right is where we put our recycling bins. It was the first major group project I finished with Free Spirit and I am so proud of the teamwork and effort we all put into it.

Also, they are both ugly.

They are the kind of furniture that you pick up locally for free after finding a listing on CraigsList. Maybe you even get paid to take it away. You would never see them inside a Crate & Barrel or Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

But they are beautiful.

I’m glad we didn’t go to the store and buy 2 tables. I built those tables. My friends built those tables. I grew and became stronger by making those tables. I love those ugly tables.

Those tables are beautiful.