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Of One Heart: Workin' at the car wash blues

October 2010

Jim Croce (1943-1973) sang about a man down on his luck when he wrote "Workin' at the Car Wash Blues" in 1972. This summer, some Alabama teens worked at a car wash to help others down on their luck. The teens' focus? The more than one million Haitians still living on the street after a catastrophic earthquake in January.

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The plan started rolling when Laurel president Kirsten Hughes proposed a service project during Bishop's Youth Council meeting. The youth in the Athens Ward would hold a car wash, complete with free refreshments for customers, to help raise money for Haitian survivors. She received an enthusiastic go-ahead.

Armed with sponges, clean cloths and buckets of soapy water, the youth scrubbed vehicles during the ensuing car wash and did it with a smile. When I asked Young Women president Kelli Perkins how the girls felt sacrificing a few hours to help others, she invited me to attend a meeting-via cell phone-to find out.

"Service is one of the most important things in life," said 18-year-old Kirsten Hughes. "That's what we're doing in Personal Progress - we're trying to be like Christ. The people of Athens were anxious to help our cause."

"Doing car washes together was fun," said Stephanie Allen, 15. "It was exciting because earning this money wasn't for me, it was for someone else."

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Joining Kirsten and Stephanie in the effort were Camille Garbett, Sammy Allen, Tamara Allen, Chris Garbett and Courtney Hughes.

Heidi Anderson, Young Women counselor, said, "They are super young men and women, each with a testimony of their Savior Jesus Christ, trying to do the things he would do. Many customers mentioned how wonderful it was for teenagers to voluntarily raise money for Haiti on a hot Saturday morning."

"That's right," added Jodi Black, another counselor. "We get so busy in our lives that too often we forget we do have time for things like service."

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"It's neat for them to know that what they did was significant, and that their story might inspire other youth to get involved," said Kelli Perkins. Her thoughts were echoed by David Byington, Young Men president, who said, "Work is always fun when it is for a worthy cause."

The bishop put it all in perspective.

"Good people seek out our youth," said Bishop Eddie Falconbury, "because our youth help the community with their example. All involved — the youth, their leaders, and the customers — felt the spirit of giving. One man with a Jeep liked our plan to wash for donations and not ask for a certain amount. It made him want to give that much more. It is the Spirit that changes lives and causes people to be better."

To the amazing youth and their leaders in Athens, Ala., your love for those in Haiti is inspiring. And I hope Jim Croce wouldn't mind if I made some slight changes to the chorus lyrics of his song:

"Instead I'm right here rubbin' these fenders with a rag, and walkin' home in soggy old shoes. With them steadily impressin', uplifting mind messin', workin' at the car wash blues."

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