Everyday Heroes:

We’re All Builders

by Lillian Woodland

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    Neighbors watched in amazement as Chris Sanders worked day after day in the scorching desert sun. But Chris had made a promise, and even though it would be tough, he intended to keep his word.

    Chris Sanders knows that a house is a refuge where the family creates a home.

    On a June day in 1976, young Chris Sanders and his family watched anxiously from high ground as swirling waters carried away their home and all their wordly possessions. The relentless torrent, unleashed when the Teton Dam collapsed near Rexburg, Idaho, left Chris, his brother Greg, and his parents with only the clothes they were wearing and the family station wagon.

    The Sanders would not get back what they had lost, but they would rebuild their lives. In the years to come, Chris’s father, Lynn, accepted advancements in his employment which required several family moves. At each new location a rental house became their home.

    Then years ago the Sanders family moved to southern Utah and rented a house in Bloomington, on the outskirts of St. George. “We’ll build a house here,” Brother Sanders told his family. “We can manage to build it if I save on costs by doing most of the work myself.”

    It was a time of excitement. A suitable building lot was found, and plans for the house were drawn. However, in spite of their planning, the family dream faced postponement.

    Brother Sander’s employment required considerable travel away from home. In addition, his call to the ward bishopric took another investment of time. “If I can’t do the work myself, we can’t afford to build,” he said.

    “Why not let me help you, Dad,” Chris said. “If I work with you, you can show me what to do and how to do it.”

    Fifteen-year-old, thin, quiet Chris Sanders had never learned any of the skills needed to build a house. But he accompanied his father when they talked to friends about the stages of construction. And as they followed those instructions, the new house began to take form. Lights burned late at the construction site the summer of 1989. Before quitting at night, Brother Sanders demonstrated what had to be done and laid out work for Chris to complete when he was not there.

    Pressures to finish the house were compounding. The family had already moved once during the building process when the house they were renting was sold. Then they received notice from their present landlord that they would need to move soon—this house was going to be sold, too.

    “I have to travel most of this month,” a perplexed Brother Sanders told his family. “We can’t do the finish work until the roof is completed, and I can’t be here to put the roof on. We’re really in a bind.”

    “Dad, I can take on the project of the roof while you’re gone,” Chris said. With mounting enthusiasm he added, “Trust me. I know I can do it.” Then with quiet confidence he added, “If I have problems, I can ask the builder across the street. He’ll tell me how to solve them. Then, when you’re here, we can all do the finish work and move in.”

    Neighbors watched in amazement as they saw Chris working day after day in the scorching desert sun. The black roof undercovering absorbed the penetrating heat and intensified it. But Chris worked steadily and persistently.

    Within the needed time, Chris had the entire roof completed. Then the family worked together to finish the detailing and painting. They were able to move into their new home at the time they were scheduled to vacate their rental house.

    Since then life has returned to normal for Chris Sanders, with schoolwork, Church activities, part-time employment, recreation, and some time for quiet reading.

    Lounging on the carpet in the new living room Chris says he isn’t totally responsible for the roof that shelters his family. “My younger brother Greg helped too, you know. And Dad and I mathematically figured out the layout necessary for the wood slats. The rest of it went together like a puzzle. Each tile had a place where it was supposed to fit. When all the pieces were secure, the roof was done,” he says. He makes it sound simple.

    Would he like to be a builder? “I’m aiming at a career in finance,” he answers. With a shy smile he adds, “But I think in a way we’re all builders. We Sanders didn’t just build a house. We all worked together and built a home.”

    Photography by Lillian Woodland