[EDITOIRALS]A Labor of LoveOne of the biggest of life's burdens is not having a house to live in, because clothing, food and shelter are basic requirements for a decent human life. Hammering sounds are vibrating nationwide as volunteers build houses in the scorching heat for the homeless. Habitat for Humanity's Jimmy Carter Work Project, led by the former U.S. President, plans to build 136 houses in six places nationwide with the help of volunteers, including about 800 from 35 countries, who will donate 9,000 man-days. The movement is full of humanitarian compassion that embraces poor and desolate neighbors with true love. It is a comfort to a single father who cannot afford to take his daughter to the bathhouse, to a child who cannot make good friends because he moves frequently and families that are driven out into the street nightly.
Habitat for Humanity started as a cooperative housing volunteer business called Koinonia Partner that built houses for destitute black farmers with money contributed by Millard Fuller. Mr. Fuller, a businessman and lawyer who was a millionaire in his twenties, donated to society all his assets when his wife became disgusted with a life centered around the pursuit of wealth and prestige and asked for a divorce. In a society where everything is measured in terms of money, the project is all the more valuable. In tune with the founder's spirit, even conglomerate executives are volunteering to help the poor. And those who are to live in the houses being built must commit 200 hours of work to the construction of their own houses and 300 hours to those of neighbors. This is participatory love that does not just involve a giver and a taker.
Habitat was launched in 1976 as an international Christian civic organization and has built about 115,000 houses in 79 countries. It was introduced into our country in 1992, and started work here in 1995, building three houses. Unfortunately, however, social interest in the project has been low. The Jimmy Carter Project has become an opportunity to awaken in us an awareness of the sufferings of our neighbors that we overlooked in the past. Let us learn life's wisdom from the volunteers who are spending their time under the burning sun with hammers instead of relaxing at the beach.