The lovely thing about working on a spring magazine is knowing that by the time it comes out the season of renewal is on its way, with all its hopeful buds and birdsong and warmer days ahead.
This column is being written in January. The days are short and gray. All the joyful and triumphant sounds of the holiday season have faded, the hopeful lights strung over bushes and banisters have come down. To my mind, it's the empty season.
In this stark time, there are moments of beauty. Moments of joy.
Like the day a group of alumni got together and worked on Beshir Ibnaouf's home. Beshir and his wife are the parents of five children, ranging in age from 2 to 14. They emigrated from the Sudan in the late '90s and have worked hard to make it in Greensboro. Now Habitat for Humanity, Well·Spring and UNCG have partnered to build them a home.
The morning of my group's January workday arrived. As we stood outside to hear instructions on how to put up siding, big, fat snowflakes spiraled onto our coats and hats. Everyone was bundled up and shuffling their feet to keep warm.
As the morning wore on, people divided themselves into groups and set to work figuring out how to measure around windows and outlets and cut siding to fit. Jana Welch Wagenseller '76 and Beshir manned the table saw. Penny Rich Trivette '96, Kwame Williams '07 and I tackled the front of the house. Toes numb and fingers not far behind, we got the first piece of siding ready to go up. We grabbed nails from our work aprons and felt the satisfying thwacks as hammers connected.
From time to time, Beshir came over to inspect our work, making sure the siding was tight enough to withstand temperature shifts. I was struck by the sheer faith it must take to let a group of mostly untrained volunteers build your home.
The snow had stopped but started up again in earnest as lunchtime rolled around and a new group of volunteers brought soup and sandwiches. We huddled inside the house where a heater did its best to dispel the cold. We sipped welcome cups of hot chocolate and reenergized, then it was back out into the frigid air.
By late afternoon, the sun had broken through. As we tidied up the site, I looked back at what our group had done. That's when I felt it. That pure, small bubble of joy. The joy of accomplishment. The joy of doing something for someone else.
There have been other moments as well. Everything associated with the Beyond Academics program has brought me joy. I am so excited a program like that exists. And then there are the personal victories solving a puzzle, creating order out of chaos, learning to knit.
My hope for you as 2011 rolls into spring is to find those moments of joy. To bask in them. Even in an ordinary day, the extraordinary can happen.
Beth English '07 MALS, Editor