Beautifying Boundaries

An introspection on cleaning Magnolia Terrace

Painting inside the lines of the boundaries.

Dearest Maddy,

Remember that day you arrived on Magnolia Terrace, pondering the demographics of the current residents and unsure of how to react? It was your first day on the Habitat for Humanity site. It was humid, high weeds grazed your legs, and cigarette smoke mixed with sheetrock dust filled your lungs. You looked around at the unfinished homes and those that surrounded them. Bars covered the windows and neighbors watched from afar at their newly renovated street.

Doug, Head Poncho

Workers gathered as a stalky, over-worked, elderly man with a raspy smoker’s voice spoke of what was. The head poncho, Doug, explained what used to reside in these homes. Drug dealers, homeless men, and gang bangers once roamed these streets. Now — it was you, a worker. A local Athenian, on a street, you never dreamed of walking on.

Doug delegated tasks, ordering you first to the lawn mower. You chuckled inside, me? Never had you touched a shovel, yet a piece of equipment that could hack your limbs off from one misuse. You gawked at the knee-length grass as the faint German voice ahead, remarked at the grass’ last trimming. “It hasn’t been cut since Christmas.”

You bent down reaching for the cord to start the motor of the rather dingy equipment in front of you, nothing happened. You pulled, you yanked, you huffed and puffed. Yet nothing. The German noticing, smirked as he bent over to start the grass eating monster. You pushed hard, uphill, and gazed at the faces observing the somewhat city girl mowing the grass. After the event was documented through cameras and the eyes of your fellow classmates, you simply gave up. You were bound to cut off a toe or let go of the mower only for it to go crashing into the cars parked on the street below.

You were handed a paintbrush and began staining the deck with the other girls. What a sigh of relief. Something that you could accomplish.

The relief of the paintbrush.

You began chatting with the supervisor, Caleb, a young fellow from Oconee County, “the outskirts of Athens.” Something was different about him. A smile gleamed, his cheek bones lifted; he was satisfied working here. He remarked, “going home at the end of the day, I feel like I’ve made a difference.” As he loosened up, he spoke of his past. He was recently released from prison. Caleb was going to turn his life around, become a businessman while changing the town he lived in. How many people have a story so impactful and deep? You were inspired. You too wanted to be a businesswoman. He handed you a business card from his back pocket. It read, “Junk removal service.” Your face lit up as you told him of your mom and her business in property management; she could use Caleb.

Days passed, worksite days came. You noticed the change in the site. The change in the persona of the entire street. But something else had changed. Deep inside you changed Maddy.

You broke down barriers, you set new goals. You no longer dream of being “just a successful businesswoman” but a woman that acknowledges barriers in demographics, with the intention of refusing to allow them to inhibit achieving a common goal, as well as interaction.

And Maddy , let me elaborate on this,


Barriers do exist for minorities everyday. As a young woman entering in the field of business, you yourself will have your own minority label. They will not determine who or how you conduct business and achieve your goals. Your dream job, commercial real estate, is a majority masculine field. You will have to make your presence known and tear down boundaries in order to prove yourself and accomplish your dream.

Your goal of exploring the world will supply boundaries as well. A woman traveling the depths of the earth will experience hardships and set backs, however you will have to strive to change this and tear down the boundaries.


You one day arrived at a site, on a street, that you once avoided. Judgment filled your mind when the GPS pinpointed the destination of Magnolia Terrace. Upon arrival, your eyes raced back and forth at the line of Caribbean colored houses. Your mind set up boundaries.

You now leave as a new person containing eyes without a filter, lens, or boundary.