Paint Me like One of Your Finance Girls

I am writing for myself, Jack.

“Paint like there are attractive German men watching” -ME.

I want to be like these houses. I want to be neon in a world of black and white, but why wouldn’t we all want to be that way? Why can’t we all be unapologetically bright, yet very sturdy and somewhere that people feel safe and welcome? Why can’t we be the homes that brighten the community and actually make the neighborhood feel safer and happier? These homes do not drive anyone out or divide people, but instead unite people from the moment they are conceived. I want to create a positive change among people in my community and be a beacon of light in dark and uncertain times.

I was called to the front lines of weed-wacking and squatting in the treacherous patches of poison ivy, I was called to paint, and I was called to move piles of rocks. I had never performed rigorous manual labor a day in my life, but this excited me and I was eager to help this Habitat for Humanity project any way that I could. I worked on the outside of the homes, and thought of this as simple and kind of repetitive work that I would not get much out of.

I questioned the project as a whole, fearing it would not mean enough to me when we were finished. I wanted to see immediate monumental change that everyone would be proud of and recognize that we did something extraordinary. I cared more about myself and how I would feel that I did not think about who we were helping and how they would feel when we were done. We were working so hard for just two hours a week to try to make the lives of these people who had been marginalized and oppressed for so long better, but would it really make it better? I wanted to do everything and fix all of the problems at once. I was enamored with the idea of change.

On the Habitat for Humanity work site.

May I continue these next four years as a fixture in the community that advocates for unity, but may I not only advocate for such things, but to successfully implement these claims. A community that has long been divided clearly by physical gates and hatred, a place so filled with spite that there are dress codes enforced in downtown Athens aimed to keep the African American community of Athens out of the clubs. The racism is institutionalized and is oftentimes overlooked by the students and staff. These homes may provide hope, stable living conditions, and security to families that have never had this before.

These homes do not feed into the devastation that gentrification brings to areas, and this is because of the reasonable pricing of the homes that Habitat for Humanity builds and the quality of these homes. These homes are small parts in changing and bettering our community in any way big or small that we can. We as individuals came together as a class and made real change that was visible and made us more thankful to be involved with such an impactful organization and university. Each stroke, each weed, and each stone makes a difference.

Our painting squad with our fearless leader Caleb, in the black shirt who is a full-time employee at Habitat for Humanity.

These homes, built by volunteers such as our class and professionals who dedicate their time to improving the lives of so many people, are in existence because people want change. We naturally want to rectify wrongs and help others. One of these dedicated workers is Caleb, who I got to work alongside during two of my three builds. Caleb was hired by Habitat for Humanity through Goodwill’s job placement program. He had just won an award the day before we came and beamed with pride when he told us the news through a bright smile. He told us little facts about himself and his life throughout the day and he continued to shock me.

Caleb, who is so friendly and happy, was a child of a mother addicted to drugs and a father who abandoned their family when Caleb was a young child. He was raised by his grandparents and he had gone through a “wild phase” as he phrased it that made him think he needed to stop drinking entirely. So he did. He cleaned up his act, but college just was not for him, so he began to work. He liked to work with his hands and found physically laborious work that occupies his mind and time. He is one of the hardest workers I have ever met.

“Reagan please don’t pass out today.” -Caleb

Caleb is a caucasian male, and he has a story that was impacted by a charity organization like Habitat. It would be wrong to assume that he had a troubled past based on his skin color or any other factor about him. The color of our skin should not determine the treatment we receive or life that we have, but it is so easy for us to forget. A whole class of young, white kids went to the poor part of Athens to help people we know nothing about. Some of us had never worked a day in our lives, but we did this out of compassion. I want to help people who are like Caleb all over the world and finance is actually an unexpected outlet for me to advocate for others. I can help in many ways and can better the lives of so many people. I want to help share prosperity all over the wolrd and do this with compassion. Compassion is one thing the world is not running short on, and trust me I am a Finance major.

On the Habitat site in front of the homes we had been working on throughout the course.