This past winter session I vowed not to die of boredom. All of my friends were either at UD, studying abroad, or working. I, on the other hand, was doing a whole lot of nothing. Worried that I would wither away into a pile of dust like I (almost) did last year, I wanted to find a meaningful way to spend my time.
Alpha Phi Omega (APO), the co-ed community service fraternity of which I am a brother, provided me a ticket out of the dust pan. Every winter, they offer a service trip with Habitat for Humanity to brothers during the last week of winter session. This was my chance to serve a community while meeting and bonding with other brothers in the chapter. Being a newly initiated brother, I was anxious and nervous to expand my reach in the chapter and meet some new people.
At first, I was hesitant to sign on. I wasn’t sure how comfortable I felt spending a week with people I did not know in an unfamiliar place. Spending eight hours in a car ride to North Carolina with six strangers isn’t exactly my idea of a fun time. Nevertheless, I gave myself a pep talk and submitted the application.
Every morning the thirteen of us would wake up at 6:45 am, get dressed, eat breakfast together, and head out to the work site by 7:30 am. There is something about eating breakfast all together that makes any place feel like home. Some of my favorite memories from the trip include the battle to fight morning crankiness together by knocking back some coffee and scraping our cereal bowls. We would work from 7:30 am-11:30 am, go back to eat lunch, return to the work site at 12:30 pm and finish at 3 pm. Different community groups and members volunteered to make us dinner. The rest of the day was ours to sleep, play games, adventure around, and most importantly, go to a fast food chain called Cook-Out for $3 milkshakes.
Before I go any further, I must make a disclaimer. Though slightly tangential to the image of service I am painting, I must say that just because you are in “the South” does NOT mean the weather is warmer. The temperature stayed in a consistent frigid realm of 30 degrees the whole time, making it colder in North Carolina on most days than it was back at UD. Wearing four pairs of pants, three shirts, two jackets, a hat, gloves, wool socks, and work boots, my fellow volunteers and I dressed work site chic and braved the elements to continue building the house.
With only the basic framework done, we were working with some pretty bare bones. My friend Alyssa and I found ourselves working on the scaffolding close to the roof to hammer some planks of wood to the frame for support. Before this trip, I could count the number of times I have wielded a hammer on one hand. It took us an excruciatingly long (and embarrassing) 45 minutes to put up one piece of wood. We definitely would’ve been fired – effective immediately. I’ll never know if our struggle was noticed or if people needed jobs, but thankfully other crew members began to help us out. Through the power of teamwork we put up the rest of the boards by lunch. I learned that I am very skilled at “upside-down hammering,” a skill which I am sure will come in handy in the immediate future. It’s going to take my resume to the next level, for sure.
Throughout the week, two other APO volunteers and I worked on building a back porch with a Habitat site leader names Mike. If you ever meet a Habitat for Humanity Construction Supervisor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina named Mike, consider yourself extremely lucky. We basically built the deck from scratch and, as you probably guessed, had no clue what to do. Mike led us through each step with patience, understanding, and purpose. He never got annoyed or frustrated with us or the project. Mike truly cared about each project and person that he interacted with. A soft-spoken Southerner, he reminded us that there is “always a chance to be kind, especially since there is so much hatred and violence in the world.”
Unfortunately, we were one railing short of finishing the deck. My heart sank knowing that we wouldn’t be able to see our project through to the end, but I feel honored to have had the chance to contribute to the deserving family that will eventually inhabit the house.
Not only did I learn a lot about the power of helping others on this trip, but I also learned about myself. My life was put into perspective and I have been trying to place some valuable pieces of this knowledge into my daily life going forward. I aspire to serve others every day, both in my personal and professional life. It is empowering to join with others who care; there is always a place in the world for learning together, laughing together, and the warm embrace of a caring community.
There are so many service opportunities here at UD! On February 24 I plan to engage in the MLK Day of Service sponsored by ResLife. I encourage you to look into different service trips and projects including: ResLife, the Honors Program, UDAB, Greek life, and any other RSO on campus!