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Judging Adam This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     I am not your most likely candidate for the Appalachia Service Project in West Virginia. I’m not skilled with a hammer, and I could never envision myself actually repairing homes in one of the poorest areas of the country. However, I wanted to help, and so I left the comforts of home in order to restore a sense of comfort to others.

When I arrived at the scene of my project, which was to reconstruct a tin roof with flying rafters, I met the 40-year-old homeowner, a single man named Adam. Meeting him, I thought, This guy is perfectly capable of working, he’s just lazy. From the outside all I could see was a strong 40-year-old man without children. All he had to care for was a small pug.

As I walked around his house to assess what had to be done, I thought, He is way more capable of doing this work than I am. This is ridiculous! I also noticed dirty yellowish-brown water in his pug’s water bowl and wondered why he couldn’t take a minute to get his poor dog clean water. I knew I was being judgmental, but I thought I saw what his life was like. As the week passed, I learned how wrong I was.

I soon discovered that Adam had been through a life-changing experience. He had been a hard worker for an electrical company when an accident changed his life. Part of a telephone pole crashed down on his back, leaving him hospitalized with no memory of the accident. He had surgery to save his life, and to this day even a sneeze could cause him never to walk again. Every day he wakes up and takes a step, the doctors say, is a miracle. I saw the scar on his back, but I was much more amazed at how he coped with his situation.

The Adam I got to know was full of hope for a brighter future, and I was astonished at his compassion for others. When I told Adam that I want to go to medical school, his eyes lit up as though he were proud of me and joked, “Here’s the angel that’s fixin’ my back for me someday right here,” and then he gave one of those contagious laughs that makes everyone smile even if they have no idea what’s going on.

Along with dealing with his own life, Adam takes on the problems of others. He helps the neighborhood children; children of alcoholics, children from abusive homes, an 18-year-old girl left behind when her parents moved away. I talked with them about their lives, everything from the topic of Adam’s generosity to a little boy’s dream of visiting the Red Sox.

Adam is definitely a huge symbol of hope for them. I listened to the children who seemed so happy on the outside, and wondered who got them through each day, helping them to move on from a miserable physically and emotionally abusive past. The idea that Adam was probably that person made me truly happy, the kind of happy that makes you cry.

The more I experienced the poverty of these people, the more I realized that at heart they are the richest people I’ve met. There is definitely something very beautiful about those lofty mountains in West Virginia.

As it turns out, my trip to Appalachia was an unbelievably enriching experience. And I learned I was wrong. If I had continued to judge Adam without actually listening to his story, I would have missed out on so much. If you could only see Adam’s love for his dog; the “dirty yellow water” I saw in his dog’s bowl that first day was, in fact, a cool drink of iced tea for that spoiled pug. Who would have thought?

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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