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The Hour That Changed My Life

Impacting the lives of others starts with the simplest step. By volunteering a little of your time, you can make a positive difference in someone else’s life. For instance, I had the pleasure of helping a little child at a reading program at the local library.

Gabriel (not his real name) was an ordinary preschool boy, not quite old enough to read, but already able to understand things through verbal communication. He came in one afternoon with his mom, who helped him choose a book of Awesome Man off the library shelves. As he walked toward the sofa where I was waiting, I could tell that Gabriel was clearly excited about reading Awesome Man. My job: help Gabriel read that book on Awesome Man. No problem, right? Didn’t turn out quite so simple, though. My first assumption was that Gabriel would be able to follow me as we progressed through the plot. After the first few pages, however, I figured that the only thing Gabriel was interested in was the pictures. So I decided to change my approach. Pointing to a picture of Awesome Man, I cried, “AWESOME MAN!!!” Not surprisingly, he happily cheered in with me. Then, I pointed to the big title on the cover, and did the same thing. After a couple of times, Gabriel eventually understood the words to convey the meaning Awesome Man.

Every time we said a phrase or observed a picture, Gabriel would give me an innocent grin, sometimes even a funny giggle. Just looking at him would make me feel the sunshine that radiated from him. It was truly amazing. I mean, it might take a video game to make a teenager happy, and probably an iPhone or a laptop for a high school-er. For adults, the cost of happiness might mean a house, car, or something even more expensive. But for Gabriel, happiness was just looking at the pictures, and grinning. It was a trait I admired in him. The more I read to him, the more he would smile, and the more he would smile, the more I would read.

Soon enough, Gabriel and I had examined all the pictures and even a few words from the Awesome Man book, so we moved on to a picture book about Shrek. Pretty much the same thing happened: I pointed to a few pictures, calling out their names, and Gabriel repeated them after me. We would associate each picture with another letter or word before continuing on to the next page. The result was that, by the end of the hour, Gabriel had added a few new letters and words to his vocabulary.

Now, I can’t say that I helped Gabriel much in that one hour at the program, but one thing’s for sure: our time together was not wasted. During that hour, not only had I gotten to know a little about Gabriel and his interests, but I also increased his enthusiasm for reading. And so, walking out of the library that day, I felt that I had something significant and meaningful: I had made a positive impact on someone else’s life.



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