When Jimmy Carter, America’s oldest living president, fell at his Georgia home Sunday, suffering a black eye and requiring 14 stitches, it would have been entirely understandable if he’d opted not to join longtime Habitat for Humanity supporters Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood and Habitat for Humanity CEO Jonathan Reckford for this week’s house build in Nashville. But he showed up, with a swollen eye and bandaged forehead, and got right to work.
Reckford and Brooks tell Yahoo Entertainment this is typical of President Carter, who celebrated his 95th birthday last week (becoming the first U.S. president to reach that milestone) and is apparently already planning next year’s build project.
“You don't expect anything different from the man,” marvels Brooks. “He’s just one of those guys, and Ms. Rosalynn's the same way. They're just those people that you just have to be around to actually believe it.”
“President Carter is amazing and he is such a role model,” says Reckford. “I got an early morning notice on Sunday that he had had a fall and had to go get stitches at the hospital. And we were of course deeply concerned, first for him. And then I got a note from him saying, ‘Of course I'm coming to build.’ And I rode up with him on Sunday, and he's great. He gave devotions [Monday], he was amazing at our opening, and he built yesterday and is behind us building today. So, he said that he wasn't going to let a few stitches get in the way of his coming out to help.”
Both Brooks and Reckford note that in a time when our country is more politically divided than ever, the former president and his wife of 73 years are the role model this nation needs. “What the Carters stand for is what we should all shoot for as human beings. Please forget ‘Republican’ or ‘Democrat.’ What they are standing for is as human beings,” Brooks attests. “If we're going to get anywhere as a human race, this is the path we want to follow. So anything keeping any kind of light on that path and those two people's dreams, then count us in.
“You've got to understand that when you get to heaven, nobody cares about ‘Republican’ or ‘Democrat’ in heaven at all. ‘Welcome to heaven. This is it,’” Brooks continues, gesturing to the Habitat for Humanity build site. “You don't care who's on the other end of that board that's helping you carry it. You don't care the color of their skin, their sexual preference, their religious preference. It doesn't matter. You're all here to build a house for someone who needs it. Usually for a young lady and her babies, or a family that needs it. So this is way, way, way beyond any political agenda at all.”
Brooks laughingly says that even at his advanced age, and even with an injury, President Carter is “going to outwork you. I'm not being modest here, trust me. I'm not being humble. I'm being honest. He's going to outwork you every time he comes on the job site. … Jonathan and I can show you a billion stories. We were down in Haiti, it's a hundred and I don't know, it's boiling down there, and the roofs are metal. So they're working on them, I'm working on the metal roof, and I've been up there for hours, so I finally get the roof on. And the great thing about getting the roof on is now you've got some shade. And I went down there and took my hat off, and stood in the shade, and I wasn't there two seconds when Jimmy comes walking in. And he goes, ‘Need something to do, Garth?’ I'm like, ‘Dang it!’ So you'd never want him to catch you ever trying to get a breath, because you can't outwork him.”
“We've asked [the Carters] not to lift heavy things, and there's some small compromises. No more ladders. But they are still absolutely remarkable. They're doing skilled work. President Carter is actually a highly skilled carpenter, and so we're getting him to do value added pieces for all the houses,” adds Reckford.
Homeowners will work alongside Brooks, Yearwood, the Carters, and hundreds of other Habitat for Humanity volunteers this week to build 21 new single-family homes in Nashville. An additional 12 new single-family homes and 26 new townhomes will be constructed by 2021 with support of funding raised for the project. In total, funds raised through the Carters’ 2019 Carter Work Project will serve a total of 59 Nashville families.
“I can't imagine living in a house that you can tell your children, the president and the first lady did that, right there, in our house,” says Brooks. “That's just so cool.”
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