Habitat 2020: Thursday – Southern Hospitality
DANIEL HOLLIKER and JENN SOUTHERTON
Today was our third day at the worksite for Habitat for Humanity, and although it was quite a bit of work, it was a good experience. It has been great each day working with all the volunteers, both those from Lourdes and the local area. The group that I am traveling with from Lourdes has been great; they are all kind and get along with each other and others, and they work hard at the construction site. The local volunteers are so welcoming. They are kind and helpful when it comes to showing us how to work on the houses, and they have many stories to share with us. Others have been welcoming and generous as well. The community of the church that we are staying at have made us feel at home and provided us with some food. Several other churches in the area have provided us with lunch throughout the week. And just this evening, a few community members with connections with Habitat invited us to their homes for dinners and entertainment.
Each of these small communities (and therefore the overall Habitat community here in Lenoir, North Carolina) have been loving in so many ways. They are full of kindness and generosity, helping each one of us feel welcome. They are also sacrificing their time to help those in need, each contributing to the project in some way. Each one of us have been serving others and have even been served by others. This is something significant that we all should remember. It is what Christ calls us to do, and it really does touch others’ hearts and helps improve the lives of those around us. Each one of us attending this trip should remember this message and take it back to Lourdes and our homes: we need to love those in our communities as Christ has loved us.
This week has been such a tremendous opportunity to fully embrace Lourdes’ mission by working with others to be a community of learning, reverence, and service. We have been chipping away at three different homes this week, installing flooring, painting walls inside and outside, working around a roof, and helping build a deck! We have collaborated with incredible local volunteers who are beyond grateful to have us here. It is humbling to be appreciated so well! It has been a long time since there has been a college group volunteering for Habitat in Lenoir, so the whole town is pulling out all the stops!
Tonight we were invited to the log cabin of a local couple who live on the very tippy top of a steep mountain! After many switchbacks up a gravel road in our 15 passenger van, we were met with a stunning view of the mountains and an array of appetizers from the generous couple! The cabin was an architectural dream, which all of us had a great appreciation for after working on houses all week! After an hour at the log cabin, we drove partway down the same mountain to a different couple’s home. There, they had a delicious southern dinner and a bluegrass quartet to entertain us! We sat around the living room for about two hours, listening and singing along to their top-notch bluegrass music. It was an authentic cultural experience that we Midwesterners won’t soon forget, and a personal favorite moment of this week for me.
We have been thanked more times than we can count by the Habitat affiliate, the local volunteers, members of so many churches, and several other individuals we encounter. They are so grateful that we are spending Spring Break caring for their community. We have been repeatedly “bragged on,” as the locals say, because of our collective work ethic and personability. I’m so proud of these students who are invested in whatever job they do and show genuine interest in those with whom they communicate. Most of the local volunteers are retired, veterans, or Habitat’s soon-to-be homeowners putting time into building someone else’s home. They have incredible stories, full of trials and hopes. There has been a great deal of mutual appreciation and admiration! What a gift it is that our lives intersect this week.