Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dale Carnegie and Red Hats

Sometimes I ponder the different aspects of the RV lifestyle.  We have been on the road now for about 18 months.  During that time we have met a lot of wonderful people, seen and done a lot of fun things.  We have also had the satisfaction of being involved in our 'calling'.

'Calling' is an interesting word that in our case it refers to one of our central themes in this lifestyle.  During our two years of preparation and planning, we tried to consider as many aspects of full-timing as we could think of and we tried to anticipate situations and how we would handle them.  Among them was trying to determine an overall guiding thought of 'why we are doing this'.  A similar question we grappled with was, 'what is our purpose in doing this RV thing'.

An idea we settled on was helping other people by volunteering.  But volunteering takes many forms, most of which does not really 'fit' us.  Some folks volunteer with Little League or in their kids' classroom.  Some serve food at homeless shelters or spend time at a park or hospital as volunteers.

An idea we kind of liked was helping with Habitat with Humanity.  We had never done anything with them until we decided to 'do a low cost probe' ~ that is, we found one close to where we lived and volunteered a few weekends to check it out.  It was an easy way to see if we liked it and could see ourselves volunteering with Habitat.

That was about three years ago with the Prince William County Habitat group.  I looked at other possibilities (Howard Payne of has a great section on his web site on volunteering) including NOMADS.  NOMADS looked like it could be similar to Habitat in the work they do:  fixing up houses.

After volunteering with Habitat, we had a few conversations on our back porch while we were preparing to full-time.  Without really thinking about it, we began to include 'calling' and 'we feel called' to our conversation.  By that we meant, 'we can see ourselves doing Habitat and NOMADS type of work' when we full-time.

Now, three years later and 18 months into this lifestyle, we are able to still say we are thoroughly enjoying this.  Habitat for Humanity and NOMADS work has given us purpose and a whole lot more in retirement.

It is a wonderful thing to find your 'niche'.  I realize it is not for everyone ~ and it shouldn't be.  The RV lifestyle isn't for everyone.  But it fits us.  And we enjoy it.

And sometimes during the course of different projects and places, there are little things that motivate and encourage us.  And here in Virginia Beach (the South Hampton Roads Habitat for Humanity Chapter) a unique thing is the notion of the Red Hats.  We noticed a few folks wearing red hats the first time we showed up at the job site.

The Red Hats are the regular volunteers that help the Construction Manager and Volunteer Coordinator get the work done.  We saw a similar thing with a regular core of volunteers in Santa Fe when we spent three weeks with the Habitat Care-A-Vanners.  That group of volunteers become more and more experienced and often bring a level of expertise to the job site that doesn't often happen with the weekend volunteers.  But in Santa Fe, you just kind of figured out who the informal leaders were and who you could ask for some guidance.

So we have been among the Red Hats.  It is a nice group of people from a lot of different backgrounds.  And they show up and assist the construction manager by taking a team of 4-5 volunteers and weaving them into the work flow each day.  One construction manager can't do it all.  The Red Hats are his 'go-to guys (and two gals)'.

In our case, at the Red Mill construction site Joe the construction manager, has about 4 or 5 work projects going each day.  And he is able to turn to the Red Hats, and one of them will get the guidance needed, and take a group of volunteers and go put up a fence.  Or hang sheet rock or paint walls, or whatever.

The Red Hats become one after they demonstrate a level of commitment and ability.  There is no set time or qualifications to become a Red Hat at the moment.  It just happens.  In the few weeks we have been here, I thought it would be nice to become a Red Hat ~ just to be known as one of the 'dependable ones'.  Funny how a red hat becomes a motivating item.

In NOMADS I noticed a lot of folks who had been at it a while, were wearing T-Shirts that indicated where and when they had volunteered.  Red hats and T-Shirts reminded me of a Dale Carnegie public speaking class I took in the late 1970's.  After week two of the 10 week course, the instructor started awarding mechanical pencils for the best speech.  After week four, I knew I wanted to get one of those mechanical pencils.  I never forgot it ~ I remember how that mechanical pencil motivated me to try and do better and I really wanted to get one of those pencils!  Not any mechanical pencil, but one of those!

It is funny sometimes what propels us to do the things we do.  Sometimes it is a calling.  Sometimes it is a mechanical pencil.  Sometimes it is a red hat.
Or sometimes all of the above.

On a different note, we had a long an wonderful conversation with Adam from India yesterday.  He seems to be doing well and finishing up his last few weeks in India.  We let him know that Carolyn Jarvis from GlobalTV (16:9) in Vancouver called and let us know her 20 minute documentary on Meghan will air this Sunday, November 14 at 6:30.  I am not sure if it be available on the internet at that time (streaming) but she indicated they would be posting it the next day at this: link  Be sure to watch!

Thanks for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles today!  Hope your week is going well!


  1. Randy& Pam, thank you so much for the mention in your post the other day, but I would like to make a small correction, The train pics were taken at Steam town in Scranton PA, A NPS site. I am separated temporarily from Donna, Rigg's and the rest of the family in MO. to attend to nursing duties for my younger sister Wendy following surgery in Oct, what looked liked a month is turning into 2 or 3 as she is still not allowed out of bed. Just like your commendable volunteer work we all have our duties and one at the top of the list is taking care of family.I am hoping to be able to returm by Christmas. Again thanks for thinking of us. Be safe out there. Sam & Donna.

  2. If I were on a job site and you were a red hat, I'd definitely seek your guidance, and I know you would not steer me wrong. Like you did in that bunker in Albuquerque: "Just take your 5 wood and blast it". LOL. Fun memory :-)

  3. Congratulations on your red hat! You are a great addition to any project, I am sure. Having "purpose" in retirement is an interesting thought. Some of us have to think about it, and others are good with just following through with what appears. I think it may be why I still participate in soil survey, and why some folks I know contribute to Kiva. Although, learning how to "be" is a pretty good purpose for those of us who are type "a"s, and really need to learn how to stop and breathe and pay attention. Thanks for a wonderful thoughtful post.

  4. Pondering our purpose in life has been on our minds a lot lately and has always been a driving force for us. We have not found ourselves as yet but we do know that we are on the right road. It is such a great life when you can honestly say that you have found your calling and everything is as it should be. We are still looking forward to that time in our lives.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, they have awaken ours once again.

  5. Thank you Pam and Randy for the work you are doing. Not only does your volunteering help others on site, but it also motivates people here in the blog world. Ellie and I watch very carefully because we think we might eventually do the same. So you see, your work there does help others to focus on what they might want to do too.

  6. One Run, Two Zoo, Three Tree, Four Door, Yes I had to have that mechanical pencil as well!! And I finally got it about six weeks in.

    Your Red hat obviously matches your commitment and enthusiasm and is a nice way to say thank you to a go to guy!


  7. You and Pam both deserve Red Hats as far as I'm concerned! I hope you both get them soon!!

  8. Sounds like you have your purpose in RV life all under control...I am one who likes a plan to form, and actually come to fruition...Thanks for all you do for all of the people who need it!!

  9. This has given me something to think about. In my heart I know that I am drawn to the full time life. I know I will be making somethings harder for myself and I as why?

    I don't want to be just a wandering tourist.

    There must be something I want to do.

  10. You have a sense that time matters and you plan to make the most of every challenge...I get this vibe from reading one post, so you got some good energy around you...Keep it going!!