My experience with Habitat for Humanity

I don’t know what I expected to see when I got out of Grant Do’s car Saturday morning on Colfax Street in Durham. At the least, I thought that maybe it would be sunny and warm, and that dozens of smiling people would be bustling around, attaching roof shingles and drilling things.

Instead, the morning was humid, overcast, and wet. The two houses under construction were surrounded by mud and stank of sewers being emptied. And at no time during the four hours I was there were there more than twenty people present.

The outing, organized by the LRHS Executive Student Council, began with awkward introductions to my part-time coworkers. Do and I were assigned to do “touch-up” work in the almost-finished house.

The privileged North Raleigh teen in me wanted to turn right around a go home, but the same teen in me knew that I had made a commitment to these strangers and could not abandon this project now.

Already sweating and stinking of sewer, I was not happy to be reminded that our shift went from 8:00 to 12:30. So imagine my surprise when four hours passed quickly, and very enjoyably.

What I learned from my morning at Habitat for Humanity is that I was not just building a house for those less fortunate, I was learning to be self-sufficient without realizing it at the time.

“I feel like I’m going to know so much for when I have my own house,” said Do. “Now I know how to sand down bumpy paint and properly clean windows!”

Do’s optimism was matched by almost everyone else on the project site. Every request was answered with a smile and a “sure I can!” Even those who were not regular volunteers jumped eagerly into their assignments and made polite small talk with their coworkers.

What at first seemed like a miserable, smelly morning ended up being a humbling, educational and enjoyable experience. Do plans to continue volunteering with his community. “I don’t think it’s something that I could do every weekend,” he amended. “But I can definitely see [myself] coming out here once a month to help out for a few hours.”

Habitat for Humanity left me with a different view of community service. In the future, I won’t just volunteer for the sole purpose of padding a college application. Nor will I devote my time to helping others just to get my parents off of my back about my work ethic. Instead, my time will be spent bettering the lives of others while simultaneously bettering mine.

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Virginia Reed is a superb writer and an even better friend. She enjoys unhealthy foods and writing sarcastic articles. Virginia is the Online Editor for the 2011-12 school year and was a Managing Editor for the 2010-11 year but has not forgotten her humble beginnings as a staff writer when she was a wee sophomore. Her goals for the future are to get an A in newspaper and to apply to college in a timely fashion.


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