The scene of the 2004 tsunami is still in my mind. An estimated 220,000 people were killed and thousands more were missing. I was shocked at these numbers and could not help but feel frustrated and sad. I knew that thousands of children my age died in this disaster. My mom took me to the fundraising center to make a donation but I felt my impact was insignificant. I was very interested in knowing all the facts about the tsunami and learned that through the American Red Cross, high-school volunteers were raising money. Two friends and I joined our local chapter and helped make posters and organize meetings.
The first outdoor activity was a car wash. Other volunteers washed their own cars to show us how to do it and customers started arriving one by one. We carefully washed each car and felt satisfied with our work. Then the cars started coming two by two, and then three by three. Finally, so many were arriving that I could not count. We rinsed and wiped soap onto the cars, used brushes to clean the wheels, and dried the cars using towels.
My friends and I enjoyed washing the cars. We sang songs and I was dubbed the greatest dryer in the world because I did it at such an amazing speed. A whole day of hard work did not result in fatigue; we were proud to make this contribution. We did not stop for a minute, not even for lunch. We hoped that a child would be saved from hunger because of our work, or perhaps be able to return to school.
There were two incidents that I especially remember. Around noon, a black car arrived. We washed it as usual but when we started to dry it, one of the volunteers shouted, “Hold on, this car is not clean. We have to redo it.” We found many spots that were difficult to clean and repeated our work again and again, but the spots would not disappear. Everyone was tired but we continued washing.
This seemingly simple act meant a lot to me. I was really inspired by the conscientious and careful spirits of these kids. It was a free car wash and most people came to donate money rather than have their cars really cleaned, but the volunteers carefully checked every car before it left.
We are all always choosing between mediocrity and perfection in life. We should not be content with something just being okay, we should try to do things perfectly.
At the end of that day, just as we were preparing to shut down, one more car arrived. We told the owner that we no longer had enough soap to wash his car properly, but he said it was alright and allowed us to wash it as best we could. We used a little soap and hurried because the water source was being closed. We were afraid that he would be angry but he seemed satisfied and donated $100, the largest amount of the day.
I was really moved. This car wash was also a heart wash for me. It showed me many quiet acts of love, kindness and compassion. Though love between people is sometimes ignored, is always exists. Since we are living in the same world, we should try to take care of it and each other. We are lucky to live a comparatively good life and have the responsibility to help those who need us. I will keep giving my love and having my heart washed.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.