I was 16 and doing stupid things, thinking I wouldn't get caught. Eventually, though, I did and it wasn't fun. I went to court and was found guilty of possessing alcohol. I had to pay $100 and serve 20 hours of community service.
My first day at the hospital was really slow and long. All I did was stuff envelopes, or fold papers to be stuffed. It was horrible but the people around me were really nice and never asked me why I was there.
My second day was totally different. An elderly man came in and talked to me until it was time for him to sell popcorn. On his way out, he asked if I'd like to help. I looked at the lady I was helping with the envelopes and she gave me the go-ahead. I wheeled the popcorn machine in front of the elevators. It was the type where you put in the popcorn kernels and oil and wait.
At first I just stood there and bagged popcorn. Then the man showed me how to cook it. I had so much fun. Everyone came to buy it: older men and women, young couples, even small children. As I looked at each, I could see how happy they were. They had twinkles in their eyes with each handful they put in their mouths. Seeing these people so happy made me feel good. When selling time was over, the man, now my friend, said, "Dang, Brianne! If it was just me, I wouldn't have sold nearly as much as we did together." Actually, how much we sold didn't matter to me as much as the happy look on those people's faces.
That second day was my last day of required community service. Some say that only good can come from the bad. I agree. After I left the hospital, I vowed to return and volunteer. I already have my days lined up.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.