May 17, 2008
This weekend, the 2,000 volunteers who came to the Coast as part of the Habitat for Humanity Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project will scatter to their respective corners of the Earth.
In the span of five days, they tried to finish building and fixing 60 houses. They also tried to build the frames of 48 houses. But rain set them back, and by the end of the day most were close to being done.
It's a shame to say it, but the Carters brought us back into the spotlight for just a few days. We'll likely fall off the radar again. But let's use the momentum and get the work done ourselves.
Kent Adcock of the local Habitat chapter said we need 150 volunteers each day, just for construction. We can do this. We can give a little time to finish the houses in Biloxi, Pascagoula and Diamondhead. We can follow up on the repairs in Gulfport. We can give help to Habitat and the smaller church groups who've worked tirelessly for nearly three years to get us back on our feet.
It's not just the Christian thing to do. It's the Jewish thing to do. It's the Muslim thing to do. It's the Hindu thing to do. It's the human thing to do.
I have had a wonderful week. I've met future leaders of America in pursuit of egalitarian community. I've worked with older men who give up their vacations and pay their way to hammer nails in the heat, and install siding in the rain.
I've spoken with local volunteers who've given both their time and money to make this week possible. And I've watched the most gracious future neighbors, who roll down their windows and say "thank you" to those who are trying to help get the Coast back to where it was before.
I have painted walls with a woman my age who cares for her handicapped father and who goes to work at night after she's been building her home all day. She deserves our help. Five years from now, the hope is that her house, and the three beside it, the ones behind it, and the ones around the corner will revive a community that was in trouble before Katrina wiped it off the map.
South Mississippi has done a great job of welcoming and caring for the volunteers and staff of Habitat for Humanity. Starting today, let's care for our own. Let's be a community where everyone can live peacefully, happily and comfortably.