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The Day That Changed My Perspective

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One of the most memorable experiences of my life occurred during my freshman year of high school. I was working to get confirmed, and in my Catholic Religious Education class, we discussed the importance of community service, not only as a way of giving back to the community, but also to expand personal horizons. I thought about community service that night, and I decided that I wanted to “give back” in some other way than picking up garbage, working at a soup kitchen, or another routine option. I knew that I wanted to make a difference and improve the lives of others around me. From there, it wasn’t difficult to decide what I should do to impact people in a profound way. I knew that teenage pregnancy was a problem in our nearby town of Willimantic, and as a result, many young mothers do not have the money to care for their children once they are born. I figured that if I could help these women provide for their children, then I would not only be helping them, but also improving the lives of the many babies in the neighborhood.

The logistics of my plan were more difficult to orchestrate, but I finally decided to run a “Diaper Drive,” in which people could buy diapers and other needed supplies and donate them to mothers and babies in need. Then, I needed to find a local business to sponsor the plan; with a few phone calls, I found that Ted’s Supermarket would be more than happy to help. We agreed that for one weekend, they would sell their diapers, baby powders, shampoos, food, bottles, toys, and more on discount prices. Plus, they would relocate these items to a more central part of the store, put up a sign, and allow me to sit inside Ted’s to hand out fliers to potential customers. After I made these arrangements, I made fliers and signs, which were posted on the windows of local stores. Also, I found several of the people in my religious education class who would be willing to take shifts at Ted’s to hand out fliers and collect the supplies. At last, the weekend of the Diaper Drive arrived. Ted’s followed through on their deal, and many people arrived to shop. Some of my classmates and I handed out fliers, and we asked people to please show their support and buy some of the discounted items to donate to a good cause. Amazingly, people reacted! By the end of Sunday, we had bags and bags of baby supplies, more than would fill the small car we had ready.

The next weekend, my CRE teacher and I drove down to the shelter in Willimantic, where we would donate all of our collected supplies. When we entered the driveway for the shelter, I felt a little uncomfortable and shocked by our surroundings. We were in a rather impoverished section of Willimantic, not at all what I had envisioned. Nevertheless, my teacher and I each grabbed a few bags and headed up the snowy steps to the building. An old nun answered the door, and as soon as she saw us, she exclaimed in happiness and directed us toward a room down the hallway. We put our bags down, and left to get more. We must have taken at least ten trips back and forth to that room, and each time, the old nun would extol us for our generosity. All the while, I was confused, tired, and sore from carrying the heavy bags. When I was leaving the room, I saw a sight that changed my perception. A young girl, who appeared to be only a few years older than me, was standing in the hallway watching me unload my bag. She was hugely pregnant, and she clutched another small child against her chest. Although it was December, she wore dirty, tattered clothing. I looked down at myself, warm on the biting day, and realized how easily our situations could be reversed. What was the difference between us, other than a few years? Where we had been born? How much money we had? Suddenly, I realized that these discrepancies didn’t really matter in the scheme of things, and I was fortunate to be where I was in the world. I never said much to that girl except to wish her a merry Christmas. I doubt that she knows how much she changed my perception. About fifteen minutes later, when the car was empty and the small room was full, we prepared to leave. The nun came to see us out, telling us that our Christian kindness and holiday spirit were inspiring. This was a nice compliment, but it didn’t really register with me. I was still thinking about that girl and child, and everything I would have this Christmas that they would not. At last, I realized what my teacher had meant when she told us that community service and leadership was more than recording hours in order to get confirmed, it was about affecting the people around us, helping those in need, broadening our perspectives, and simply reaching out. I had been afraid to take a leap and to out step my boundaries, but I simply cannot imagine how differently I would view life today if I had not gone to the Willimantic Shelter that winter day.





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MissDarkCross said...
Dec. 25, 2011 at 2:53 pm
I really loved reading your article.
 
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