By Maddie Zins
Staff Columnist

The definition of “living naturally” is often under great scrutiny because of the ambiguity surrounding what fits into it. My personal view is a very simple one: do no harm. The trickiness of carrying this mindset out comes from applying it to all areas of my life and not just my diet.

At the forefront of these experiences are those based on service. In this light, I guess a revision of my mindset is in order—do no harm, do only good. As cliché and corny as this reads, doing good makes pretty much everyone feel a resonance of greatness and hope ring through our spirits.

There’s something enigmatic about helping others that beats the high of getting an A on an O-chem exam or the final mark on a Java George free drink punch card. I witnessed this in action firsthand over fall break when I wemt to Virginia with Habitat for Humanity.

Over the course of three days’ time, we continued work on two different structures for two different families in the greater Virginia Eastern Shore region, which is not the most affluent of locations. Our various projects ranged from the installment of shelves, drywall, roofing shingles, doorknobs, flashing, siding, doors, a ramp, and more. So much happens on these trips that workers are often unaware of the projects that their fellow volunteers complete until they share stories over dinner late in the evening when the long work day has already ended.

The house we worked on was for a single mother with two children and it had already been visited by many other Habitat for Humanity clubs from many other schools. These people, clearly in need of a house, had watched the project from the start that seemed to be longer ago than they’d like to remember.

We didn’t know how long it had been since building began, we didn’t know where they had been staying, we didn’t know how many groups they’d watched come through and work, and we certainly didn’t know how many times they’d already lent their hands to the project themselves. What we knew, or what we tried to know, were their need for this house and their gratitude for our help.

On the final morning of working on the house, the homeowners visited the site. With tired eyes and happy expressions they eagerly picked up pans, spackle knives and globs of putty to join our efforts of finishing as many rooms as possible while we were there. We them, as the day carried on, bringing with them a will to help in whatever ways possible. At lunch time, we exchanged some words with the homeowners and their friends, briefly pausing to take in both nourishment and the company of these people.

I did not anticipate seeing their gratitude and awe at our commitment and efforts, but upon seeing them both I realized the immense feat that came of this trip. It is such a great gift to give someone a house; it is an even greater gift to give someone hope.

Seeing these people marvel at our work and having the opportunity to help build their home were kindnesses paralleled to this gifting of hope.

As I said before, helping others brings us a joy that we innately desire. I’m sure some of you will argue against this, saying that there are many people in this world for whom helping others is not a thrill or that the genetic makeup of certain individuals does not comply with this idea. For the latter, I’d agree and argue that this idea of an innate desire to help others does not apply to those special cases. The former, however, disheartens me.

I can only hope that they find some beacon—an amazing organization such as Habitat, or perhaps even an encounter with someone—some spark for a longing to lend their talents and passions to those in need of such aid that facilitates growth, change, and most importantly, communal love. In the end, that is the natural quality that causes us to serve, that carries us through life: love. I guess it really is all you need.

The Elm

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