OPINION: Jimmy Carter set standard of selflessness

·2 min read

Mar. 29—While Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter didn't start Habitat for Humanity, their names often come to mind when we think of the nonprofit.

The searing 2019 image of the then 95-year-old former President, bruised with stitches in his head from a fall that resulted in a pelvic fracture, helping construct a Habitat home is unforgettable.

In 2018, the Carter Work Project came to Indiana for a Habitat build. The Carters worked with other volunteers to build or improve over 40 homes in Mishawaka and South Bend.

The Carters haven't built any Habitat homes in Southern Indiana, but their influence and example boosted support nationally for the organization, helping to pave the way for the nonprofit in places like Clark and Floyd counties.

These aren't just buildings, they're opportunities. They are part of the American Dream.

Habitat homes are a chance for home ownership for those bettering their lives. They're places where someone like Aerion Irvin, owner of Charlestown's first Habitat home, which was completed in March, can raise their families. These homes aren't handouts — they require responsibility and commitment from their owners. But they are made possible through kindness, donations and volunteerism.

The former President is in hospice care, which unfortunately signals his time here is short. But the legacy Carter will leave behind will affect generations. Children living in Habitat homes will go on to raise their own families, and, hopefully, will pass on the generosity and goodwill shown to them.

While many talk about improving this world, Carter picked up a hammer and got to work doing what needed to be done. In a society where it's hard to find people a quarter of Carter's age to volunteer, the former President demonstrated by his works compassion and concern for his fellow Americans. Imagine the kind of country we would enjoy if each of us were to follow in Carter's footsteps?

Carter also demonstrated that one facet of our life doesn't define who we are. Spending just one term in the Oval Office, critics consider Carter's presidency to be mediocre if not poor. But Carter's volunteerism and selflessness after his tenure in Washington are arguably more important than any of the decisions he made while in the White House. He spent his post-presidency serving his country, helping millions of people by his example.

When Carter dies, we'll mourn the loss of a former President. But we should also celebrate the legacy of a man who symbolizes servitude. We need only look to the Habitat for Humanity homes in our communities as pillars of his passion for helping others.