By Bia Jurema
I often hear people say, “You stumble upon amazing things when you’re least expecting them.” Truthfully, though, I had never been a believer of that cliché – not until this past year, anyway. I was taught that everything good came to a person because of hard work, strong visions and careful planning. But recently I began questioning that idea.
I first began participating in my school’s community service organization, Key Club, to make my college resume a little more desirable. My service was a means to an end. “If I get six projects done, I will automatically be admitted to the club next year” was what initially consumed my mind. I had a strong vision, careful plans and I was working hard to fulfill them.
One of my service requirements was to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity at a ReStore outlet. Apathetic as always, I scribbled down a note in my assignment book – “Habitat 10-2pm” – so I wouldn’t disregard the date I was dreadfully anticipating. A week flew by, and before I knew it, I was driving over to the offices, ready to complete my final Key Club requirement of the year.
Arriving just before I was due, I dropped my bags carelessly on the floor, then rushed over to the sign in sheet to doodle in my name, a ritual I was very much used to. But as I walked to the front to receive a formal introduction and assignments, I was pleasantly surprised. Something was different about this place, and so I took a moment to look around me: I was surrounded by friendly faces, people who were here simply because they wanted to be. These were people doing a priceless deed, just because. They weren’t getting any special benefits, none at all. I felt almost cheap knowing that deep down I was here for the requirement, that there was no meaning to my service whatsoever.
And so from the moment I stepped inside Habitat, I knew I couldn’t continue doing what I was used to doing; going through the motions just wouldn’t be enough. That day, I was changed.
During my four hours at ReStore, I worked hard. I listened and absorbed my instructions. I was assigned to the Halloween section, and thus, I spent hours going up and down the crowded aisles, looking for garments I could mix and match to create a costume, which I then hung up in the store to draw in customers. My creativity caused chatter among the Habitat employees. One of the workers even wanted to buy a costume I had assembled! I was flattered, and that inspired me to continue pushing, to work hard for my own fulfillment.
When I finished my service, I was approached by the head of the office. She told me how well I did and that she would love to have me back
I spent a lot of time that night thinking about what I had done and what it meant to me. I was so inspired that I did research on Habitat to see what they were all about. I had a vague idea that needed much clarification, but I learned that Habitat for Humanity is an organization that strives to give every man, woman and child a safe and affordable home to reside in. Through volunteer labor and donations of money and materials, Habitat strives to achieve its goal. I was honored to have been a part of this noble effort to minimize poverty.
I talked with my mother about how much my afternoon service had affected me. She told me that my aunt was actually a victim of poverty, and as a result, Habitat built the very home she lives in today. I was humbled, and I knew that I had to go back.
In no time, I was in contact with the organization, and the following week, I was scheduled to return. They were surprised to have a young girl around the warehouse working “for the fun of it,” as I explained to them.
Ever since then, I’ve looked forward to my community service as a way not to fulfill an obligation, but fulfill myself. The gratitude I receive from helping others is a feeling I never want to lose sight of. What was once a painful requirement has now transformed into my personal salvation.
Learn about Habitat for Humanity’s Youth Programs 
Habitat for Humanity has projects and volunteer opportunities for youth ages 5 to 25, their teachers and youth group leaders.