I have never loved a place as much as I love the Mississippi Delta. I’ve only been twice on week-long Habitat trips, but I’ve fallen madly in love with that place. Maybe it’s the heat and humidity (though probably not); maybe it’s the prevalence of the Blues everywhere you go; maybe it’s the delicious food; maybe it’s because every time you tell someone you’re working with Habitat, they shake your hand and tell you “Thanks”; but I think there’s something else at work in the Delta.
I went on my first Habitat trip in July of 2009 with eighteen of my schoolmates, and I immediately fell in love. Though we were working outside in Mississippi-in-July weather putting up siding and shingles, I absolutely adored everything about the trip: I like getting to know my classmates a little better, I loved the manual labor- I didn’t even mind the heat.
When I left Mississippi, I left with mixed feelings. I liked bonding with my schoolmates and getting to know people a little better, and I even liked all the work we’d done, but I didn’t get the sense of community and togetherness with the locals and homeowners that I had been anticipating.
Then, in June of 2010, I went back to Jonestown, Mississippi, this time with only twelve of my schoolmates. This trip was hotter and more humid than the previous one- and I loved every minute of it. I’d almost forgotten how in love with the Delta I was. Even better, this trip was much more about the community and the homeowners and being involved and getting to know people- and when thirteen students are forced to live together for a week, you really get to know people.
Besides building houses and getting to know the locals, one of my favorite things about Habitat trips is getting to know my schoolmates better. Most of the time, the trips are mixed grades, so juniors and seniors who hardly spend time with each other during school will spend a week living together.
After work each day, a group of us would go shop for food for dinner, another group would cook, and a third group would do dishes. To kill time in between showers and dinner, we’d play games, listen to music, or sit around and talk- together. Though some days were spent reading or listening to iPods, most evenings were spent playing games, such as chess, Scrabble, dominoes, and Bananagrams. One day, after lunch, we did a sing-a-long on the bus, singing songs like ‘For the Longest Time’ and ‘Stand By Me’, a song that arguably sums up our entire trip. Though the trip was only a week long, we all became very close. By the last day of the trip, no one actually wanted to leave. Since we were leaving at four the next morning, we had all planned to stay up anyway. And we did. We listened to music and played games; we cleaned up and packed up in the early hours of the day. When we all loaded up the bus, tired though we were, we were sad to drive away.
I’ve learned so much from just two Habitat trips. I’ve learned that hard work can go a long way; that even adversity can bring people together; and that changing the lives of one family means more to me than saving the world. I’ve learned more about love and selflessness through these trips, and they are the most rewarding trips I’ve ever taken.
I don’t even mind the heat.
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