Most girls were going on crazy spring break trips to Cancun or Florida. A group of us were headed to Beattyville, Kentucky to help out. Luckily for me, the group largely consisted of my best friends. We had a large group of friends. Half of us were doing Habitat together, the other half were going to Disney World.
Participating in Habitat for Humanity was one of the coolest things I've done. On Easter morning in 2005, we hopped into two vans and drove down to Kentucky. The ride down was hilarious. Our friend Sarah read aloud passages from a cheesy romance novel, and we shared stories of boys and adventures we had been on. I remember my friend Liz downing Diet Coke like it was her job, which resulted in us having to practically carry her to the bathroom at the next rest stop because her bladder was so full she couldn't walk straight.
Soon we arrived at our location. Beattyville was small. The "downtown" was literally one intersection I still remember us trying to find food in that town the first night, but since it was Easter, everything was closed. The only open store was a gas station, so we filled our bellies with macaroni and cheese and pizza rolls. Our shelter for the week was this tiny little home lovingly nicknamed "habitat house". It had a living room, a kitchen, and a few bedrooms. Us girls were all in one room with bunk beds. Yep. That means there were 9 teenage girls in one room. There was a youth group sharing the Habitat House with us, and only one working toilet and shower. Space was tight. .
During the week, we worked on many different building projects. We helped to start the foundation of a new church being built, we painted an elderly woman's home, fixed up another home by replacing doors and helping rebuild the roof, cleaned and painted a trailer for a really sweet couple. We had so much fun building and painting We had warm weather and we surprised ourselves, I think, with how hard we could work. And I know we were all sore, but we also felt good being able to give back to these people.
I don't think I'll ever forget that trip or the people of Beattyville. One night the church hosted a dinner for us and we got to mingle with people. Everyone was so nice, life was simpler than it was in Detroit. On one of our days, Pastor Herman, who led our group throughout the week, took us to the Beattyville Museum and on a gorgeous hike to Natural Bridge. Pastor Herman was a sweet, sweet man and he really wanted us to get a lot out of the experience. He joked around with us and thanked us often for what we were doing.
More than anything, though, I remember how hard we laughed through the week. We created some really great memories and bonded even more as friends. There was one night in particular I remember. We went "cruisin" just like the locals do and hit up the Dairy Queen, one of the only hang outs in town. We then drove to a place known as Happy Top, and as Pastor Herman told us, it was where "the lovers went". We laid there, as a group of friends, staring up at the stars and sharing our fears about college and leaving high school.
On the last night, we packed up our things and signed the wall-it's kind of a habitat tradition. Every group picks a spot on the wall and draws or writes something unique to their experience, and then everyone signs around it. I don't remember off the top of my head what we wrote, but I know I have a picture of it somewhere. The next morning we drove back to Michigan, after saying goodbye to Pastor Herman and to Beattyville.
When we returned, one of our chaperones for the trip sent us all cards in the mail thanking us for our service. On the card she wrote "never forget the people of Beattyville. Simple life, simple living. Happy life". I have carried that phrase with me, and when I get frustrated because my internet won't work or because my paycheck is lower than I'd like, I do remember the people of Beattyville, and how happy they were just to have running water.