Monday, September 20, 2010

Much More Than Community Service

This summer, while everyone was enjoying the sun, sitting on the beach, wishing life could be that relaxing 365 days a year, I was spending my summer working at the same school I attend 9 months out of the year, working the same job the entire summer that I worked the entire school year. When finals ended, you can imagine I was not extremely excited for this responsibility filled summer. The 8 am – 5 pm work schedule began, and my little glimmer of excitement slowly diminished. By June, my life as an 18-year-old college student became the routine of a 30-year-old working mother. Come July, this routine surpassed boring, and entered into the territory of torture. Little did I know, my routine was in for a twist. The famous show, seen on ABC all over the country, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was coming to Baltimore. Loyola University had multiple departments giving donations, so therefore to producers of the show gave a special invitation to the students living at Loyola during the summer. They promised, no matter how many volunteers they had, they would find work for us. So of course, I took this wonderfully amazing opportunity.

As the time to volunteer came closer, I was getting so nervous as to what they were going to have me do. I am a five foot six inch tall, one hundred and six pound teenager, so I wasn’t sure how much help I’d be. Growing up, I was the only girl in my entire family (and still am). I have no sisters, girl cousins, or sister in laws. The only girls in my family are my three aunts and my mom, who are all obviously much older than me. Therefore, my father treated me as a son, taking me to the gun range and working on cars. I changed oil for the first time when I was six years old, and completely rebuilt and restored a 1974 Chevy Nova by the time I was seventeen. After realizing this, I thought Extreme Makeover Home Edition would be a piece of cake. Compared to performing a rear disc brake conversion, building a measly house didn’t faze me.

At first, the volunteers were doing trivial, simple jobs such as picking up trash and handing out water. Of course, I wanted to do more, so I decided I was going to take matters into my own hands and find my own jobs. I ended up making casual conversation with someone who looked as if he were just taking a water break. I told him how excited I was to get my hands into things and that anything they threw at me, I would do. Come to find out, this man was the director of construction for the show. Needless to say, he put me to work. Before I knew it, I was dry walling bedrooms, fixing a fireplace, building furniture, and sawing lumber in half.

The first day, I volunteered from 6 o’clock in the evening until 6 o’clock in the morning. It was literally twelve whole hours of nonstop construction. Through this experience, I met the children of the ABC prime time show Modern Family as well as met the celebrities Raven Symone and Xzibit. Of course, I couldn’t help myself but to come back. I was in the house during the “Move That Bus” segment, and the house looked absolutely gorgeous. Around ten other construction workers were in the house with me, watching the children’s reactions as the bus pulled away. Their eyes, looking directly at us while we stood in their new house, glistened from excitement as well as tears of appreciation. Being a part of something so life changing can never be described in words. So many people in the Baltimore community put their heart and soul into this house and it truly showed. I have watched this show more times than I can count and not once has a house looked this amazing. Not only did it look amazing, but you could literally feel the love painted on the walls.

While reading Whale Rider, I couldn’t help but think of the other volunteers and myself when Rawiri and the community all came together to save the life of the whales. The beached whales brought together the young, old, bikers and tourists, just like Extreme Home Makeover brought together the young, old, construction workers and college students. The Maori people had something to save and we had something to create. Being able to think back at my experience volunteering for Extreme Home Makeover, I can honestly say the Baltimore community is not only better because such a great organization, Boys Hope Girls Hope, now has a great place for their girls to live, but because we were all able to come together for the common good and put aside our differences and do something wonderful for complete and total strangers. We didn’t care who was democrats or republicans, convicts or law-abiding citizens, we did not pass judgment of the man standing next to us, we just simply accepted everyone. These are the types of things they should show shows about Baltimore, such as The Wire. These are the types of occurrences people should see in such a great city, not poverty and murder.

This episode of Extreme Home Makeover airs on September 26, 2010, and I will be glued to my television for the entire two-hour special. I encourage anyone who spent his or her time reading this lengthy paper on such a wonderful experience to watch it as well. If you have ever looked at Baltimore as a dangerous, scary city, this episode will make you think and know that Baltimore is full of warm hearted, caring individuals that are willing to request off work for an entire week to build a house for deserving children, for no other payment than the satisfaction we all received. This community service will forever be the best community service I have ever participated in, for as long as I live.

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