Thursday, October 6, 2011

What do peanuts, a sweater and a hammer have in common??

     Only 30 days until I leave for my build in Haiti! I still need to renew my passport (thank goodness I live just outside of Washington, D.C.) and have yet to schedule an appointment for my tetnus shot.  There are supplies (mosquito repellent, anti-malarial pills) to be bought and Creole phrases to learn.  But right now, I want to take some time to say:

    Happy birthday, Jimmy Carter!  I hope you had a great day last Saturday and maybe got a little help blowing out those 87 (!) candles on your cake! I can't wait to see you and Rosalynn next month!!

    Because if I haven't mentioned it before, I'll be working on the HFH Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project in Leogane, Haiti.  I can't be more excited!!

     There is something special about your first memories of an acting president.  Politics are not part of your vocabulary or understanding.  You're young and full of hope, and you believe in the possibilities that this person represents and the words that he (hopefully, "she" someday soon) speaks.  For me, those memories are of Jimmy Carter.

     I can still remember Jimmy Carter talking to the country on the television, telling us to put on a sweater in the house and turn the thermostat down a few degrees.  His advice rings true now more than ever.

     I remember the photos of his daughter Amy as she walked into a public school in Washington, D.C.  As an elementary school teacher today (and one who has taught in DCPS), I applaud his faith in public schools.

Go, DCPS!!

   And I remember his brother Billy and his infamous Billy Beer.  It was kind of comforting to know that even the president had interesting characters in his family :)

     Years later, when I became involved with HFH I was delighted to learn about Jimmy Carter's involvement with the organization.  First memory presidents just have a special place in our hearts.  And I was even more excited to learn about how much he has done with Habitat.  Since first lifting a hammer on a build in New York back in 1984, Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn have led builds in 13 different countries, 18 states, and the District of Columbia.  In the process, they have helped to provide housing solutions for 4000 families.

   Several years ago, I experienced the Carters' work with HFH firsthand.  As I sat in the terminal in Seoul, Korea waiting for my connecting flight to Thailand for a JRCWP build, people around me stood up and started applauding.  It took a minute before I realized that Jimmy and Rosalynn had just come to my gate.  The flight staff quickly tried to board our plane, but President Carter took time before take-off to walk through the aisles, shaking everyone's hand and wishing us a good trip.  I was over the moon and spent much of the trip talking with the secret service agent seated next to me about the Carters (who go through several passports a year, I learned and "are the real deal" with their works).

Taken just after our handshake!  Wish it could capture the lively sparkle in his eyes and voice!

     Using his celebrity, President Carter's presence brought a lot of media attention to the build site, and by luck, he held a press conference in a shaded area directly behind the house I was working on.  I couldn't hear his responses, but I did hear him call out to the volunteers.  "Don't forget to take a lunch break...but make it quick and get back to work!"

     And then the 85 year old former president and his wife joined a team to work.

Jimmy Carter at work in Chiang Mai, Thailand

The Carters, the new homeowners, and our team in front of a completed house in Chaing Mai.  I'm somewhere on the left side

     So when I learned about the opportunity to join the build in Haiti with the Carters next month, I jumped at the chance. 

     One of my favorite sayings is an old Chinese proverb:  Talk doesn't cook rice.  Thanks for being such great cooks with HFH Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.  See you soon!

     And thank you soooo much to everyone who has donated to Habitat for Humanity.  If you want to help the Carters (and me) cook some more rice, there is still time to donate :)



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