Today’s guest post comes from Sara Fry of Bungee-coasting.com. Sara and I started chatting in the months before we ever met IRL, so by time we were actually at Bloggers in Sin City in May, it felt like old friends reuniting rather than meeting for the first time. She has been a solid voice of reason for me and I’m grateful for her friendship. I admire her for spending her college spring break volunteering to help a stranger.
When I’m looking back on my life, it is split into various geographical buckets. There’s the time I spent at this place and that one, in this house and the other one. I lived here, here, and here, I say.
And then I define my current life by where I am. Literally.
When I’m telling stories about my life, I like to tell stories about the different places I’ve lived. I like to talk about moving and adjusting and my various homes. I tell stories about how I can remember my old phone numbers and addresses.
The stories of my life are centered on physical locations. Those are the defining moments.
So it’s odd, then, that when I’m telling stories about my life, I usually forget about the time I built a house.
It was my senior year of college and I couldn’t afford to go on a wild, tequila-fueled spring break trip. There would be no Cancun for me or any of my friends, but we still wanted to do something. So we signed up for the Habitat For Humanity Spring Break Trip. It cost $100 to volunteer a week of our time, including the 11-hour drive from Gettysburg, PA to outside Atlanta, GA.
Looking back, I like to think that we started the trip with the noblest of intentions. The truth is, the four of us fully expected to half-ass our way through the construction part of the trip and booze our way through the nights. We’d make it the crazy spring break we thought we wanted, no matter what.
Turns out, it was a crazy spring break, but not the way we expected.
Each morning started at 7am as we set out with tool belts and hard hats and pounded nail after nail into hundreds of planks of wood. On day one, there was a cement foundation and a pile of lumber. Seven days later and the entire structure was completed.
Habitat For Humanity doesn’t just give houses to people who need them, which is easy to assume about an organization that constructs houses for people who need them. Whoever is receiving the house has to help out a certain number of hours – and then pay a mortgage – which meant that I got to interact with the woman who would eventually tell her own story about that time she helped build her very own house.
I think I forget about this story because it isn’t a defining moment in my life. It was just one week among hundreds of others, albeit one week I feel particularly proud of. But I didn’t volunteer my time that week to have some life-altering experience for myself.
I volunteered my time to contribute to someone else’s.