For two consecutive summers, I spent a week building houses for Habitat for Humanity with my church youth group. After a long eight-hour car ride, we finally reached Morgantown, West Virginia, a town much different than the one from which we had come. Much of the roads and surrounding areas were run down. It was obvious that the region was very poor, hence our reasoning for being there. Going into the trip I knew that I would be rewarded by my experience, but I never imagined the extent at which the reward would come.
After arriving, we were given a tour of the town in order to get a feel for what it was like to live in this area. Driving around the regular, paved roads and off onto dirt roads, we saw shamble houses and trailers. Most of the homes were in worse quality than any from our own town, but this was just customary for the town. We, easily discerned as foreign visitors, worked arduously throughout the heat of each day in honor of our mission. Although we were unsure as to why the family was in such a financial struggle, whether it be due to some stereotypical reasons such as drug habits, gambling, etc., but nonetheless determined to accomplish all that we had come for. Essentially it didn’t matter what the reason, because we just wanted to help those in need, but it was still a small wonder in the back of our heads. For the majority of the time, we worked alongside music to help make the days more enjoyable. On the last day that of our trip, we got a little surprise visit from the family who was to receive the house that we had helped to build. Meeting the very people that would benefit directly from our actions gave our purpose a much greater meaning. We were able to see the lives we had impacted and it really touched each of our hearts. This particular family consisted of a mother, father, ten-year-old son, and a five-year-old little girl. We soon learned that the young daughter had a serious medical condition, which had served as a burden on their already strenuous financial situation. The majority of their money was put towards medical bills, leaving very little for much else. This helped to show a common ground between the people of Morgantown, West Virginia, and the people from our town, Medford, New Jersey, along with people throughout the entire country and world. Across all economic and social classes, parents are looking to help and care for their children. The family’s intentions were purely good. This experience helped to show that all types of people face troubles throughout life regardless of their specific characteristics. The family did not choose to have a medical illness that would cause such a burden financially, but it was something handed to them and they had to deal with as best they could. This really showed a common ground as Judith Ortiz Cofer speaks of in her “Common Ground.” As different as we may think we are from one another, everyone is made of the same blood, bones, and being, all with similar intentions. As many of us volunteers stood there speaking to the parents as they praised us for our generous efforts, I caught a glimpse of the little girl. There she stood with a smile on her face just swaying to the beat of the music playing in the background. It made me wonder, “How can a little girl so sick seem so joyous and without a care in the world, when I know clearly that every single day she faces such great struggles?” The answer is the power of music and dance. As Rita Dove describes in “Fox Trot Fridays,” music has a magical way of putting people at ease, generating a special joy and happiness. Seeing the happiness she could possess while so sick helped to show that no matter how hard life may seem, there is still joy to be found.
Though there were numerous physical differences one could pick out between the people of Morgantown and us visitors, we persisted to have a greater essence in common. Looking back on this event helps to remind me that no matter how much difference I can see between another and myself, there is a stronger relation. We are all alike. I am able to take away so much from this and apply it to my life.