February 28, 2023
Melinda Head


A man committed to social justice and human rights

Jimmy Carter, our 39th President, has had enough. At age 98, he’s tired of medical interventions and just wants to die in peace. It takes guts to arrive at such a decision, but he is not a man without guts.

Jimmy Carter has always fascinated me. This is a man with a strong sense of self-sacrifice and a duty to help others. Politics was clearly not about him, it was about what he could do for others. He is a man who prides himself in being an un-celebrity, despite his many accomplishments.

Habitat for Humanity is synonymous with Jimmy Carter. The brilliance of this initiative is that it removes the stigma of charity by substituting it with a sense of partnership.

“Habitat provides a simple but powerful avenue for people of different backgrounds to come together to achieve those most meaningful things in life. A decent home, yes, but also a genuine bond with our fellow human beings. A bond that comes with the building up of walls and the breaking down of barriers.” (Jimmy Carter)

More than 1 out of every 10 Americans lives in poverty – even more in the American South where Jimmy Carter was born and raised, and saw poverty first-hand. When last counted, almost 600,000 Americans were experiencing homelessness, 40% of whom found no inside shelter. No doubt, these are very soft numbers, as homeless people are very difficult to locate and count properly.

I remember going to pick up a few groceries at the Weaver Street Market in my neighborhood of Hillsborough, North Carolina, where the average household income is $98,549 – yet 28% of Black residents and 39% of Hispanic residents live in poverty. Cashiers were asking customers if they wanted to “round up” in support of the co-op’s chosen charities. On the surface it was a laudable effort, but I knew, and everyone knew, that there was a young man quietly living in his disheveled car in the parking lot. He needed help right away, not later. I was afraid to mention his obvious situation to the store, for fear that they would ask him to leave the parking lot. I gave him $20, we chatted for a few minutes and I left with a deep feeling of shame and helplessness.

Habitat for Humanity does not give houses away to people. Applicants must meet several criteria, including learning about managing money, finding the means and agreeing to repay a 0% mortgage, putting in at least 400 hours of sweat equity per family and agreeing to maintain their new homes.

“If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” (Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher)

“Enjoy your American freedom, and utilize it to expand your own opportunities and God-given talents as much as possible. You will find that these investments in helping others will always pay rich dividends.” (Jimmy Carter)

Country music singer/songwriter Garth Brooks and his wife, Trisha Yearwood, first put hammers in their hands for Habitat for Humanity during the post-Katrina restoration efforts in New Orleans. They are committed to continuing the Carter Habitat for Humanity legacy.

Country music superstar Garth Brooks and his wife, Trisha Yearwood, at a Habitat for Humanity worksite

This year the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project, hosted by Brooks and Yearwood, will take place in Charlotte, North Carolina, from October 1-6.

“Habitat for Humanity shows you what love can do.” (Garth Brooks)

During this 6 day affair, future homeowners will work alongside the celebrity couple with hundreds of volunteers to build 20 single-family affordable homes. With 7 homes already under construction, the entire 39 home project is expected to be completed by early 2025.

You can find out how to become a Habitat for Humanity volunteer or donate to Habitat for Humanity here.

Mr. Carter, you did good. Thank you very, very, very much for your selfless service to others. We wish you well in your next journey. You have left us with much to think about and act upon.

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About the Author

A serial entrepreneur, Melinda is a sociologist and statistician who believes there is no currency with greater value than knowledge

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