The legacy of Jimmy Carter’s presidency has bred a wide variety of opinions. For some, he was a breath of fresh air in the aftermath of Nixon’s Watergate. Others are quick to criticize his foreign and economic policies as weak. Regardless of how he performed during his presidency, Jimmy Carter is a compassionate man dedicated to fostering selflessness and generosity among all those he encountered. His endearing humanitarian commitments include building homes for the poor and teaching Sunday school at his local church in Plains, Georgia for the last four decades. Carter has certainly always been eager to lend others a helping hand, whether that be physically or spiritually. Now that the former president has recently entered hospice care, it is important to look back on his humanitarian legacy.
A Helping Hand
In March of 1984, three years after leaving the Presidency, Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, volunteered for Habitat for Humanity to help build houses for those in need. Inspired by the efforts of those involved, the Carters invited the organization to partner with their own nonprofit–the Carter Center–and eventually founded the Carter Work Project. Their combined efforts have brought numerous Habitat builds to various locations all around the world over the past few decades. More specifically, until 2019, the Carters had contributed to the construction of over 4,000 homes in 14 different countries. This staggering statistic is indicative of the genuine kindness that rests in the hearts of these two individuals. Despite facing limitations because of his age, President Carter still made the effort to appear at multiple Habitat for Humanity events well into his 90s.
In addition to building houses for those in need, President Carter has taught Sunday School in his hometown of Plains, Georgia at Maranatha Baptist Church for over four decades. Crowds of almost 500 people gathered weekly inside Maranatha Baptist Church to hear the former president’s words during the 10 a.m. service. Much like his work for Habitat for Humanity, Carter refused to let age affect his ability to be physically present in his hometown community to provide spiritually enriching sermons to any who desired to listen.
In light of the announcement he would receive hospice care at home, his church asked his fellow congregants to post their fondest memories of Carter and discuss his impact in their lives on the church website. They received numerous responses. One heartfelt tribute came from Linda Williamson, a Kentucky native who visited the Church with her husband when President Carter was speaking. She felt so inspired by his words that she brought two of her grandsons the second time. She also brought two Republican friends of hers the third, writing that they had been impressed by the former Democratic president—something she described as “not an easy feat.” Another woman, Debbie Carter-Dye, wrote that Carter’s commitment to Habitat for Humanity helped her come to the realization that she was meant to serve children, and has since “devoted [her] life to ending childhood obesity.” Surely, the multi-decade impact Carter made on his hometown and those who visited to hear his words will be felt long after his passing.
Through the non-profit humanitarian work that he has done—whether that be building homes for thousands of the poor or providing occasional spiritual relief through his sermons—Jimmy Carter is certainly leaving this world better than he found it. We should all aspire to model our lives around his genuine and kind character so that we too can positively impact the lives of those around us. Though most of us will never be President of the United States, Carter’s life story still serves as a reminder to love our neighbors as ourselves, and that the littlest kindness can go a long way.