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It was 7:30 at night, another weekend had passed, and the count was 80 daysuntil the end of school. I sat watching CNN in the living room on the oppositeside of the couch from my father. I was more and more interested in the news. Myafter-school ritual used to consist of crunchy snacks, "Total RequestLive" on MTV, and lots of procrastinating before tackling the seeminglyunending mounds of homework that awaited me after a monotonous six hours ofschool.
This week, however, I felt different. My interest in the news wasjust developing. The thought of missing just one day of the world's events hadbecome a new fear. Going to bed I would lie awake, wondering what was going on indifferent land masses and time zones around the world. I longed to be in thosecountries where history was happening, where I could somehow be making adifference.
Often I have found myself so wrapped up in my thoughts andexcitement that I have forgotten to fall asleep. Realizing I must force myself tocalm down, I bribed myself (as I did my younger cousins when they were anxious):"The sooner you fall asleep, the sooner morning will come." For me,this means I jump onto my computer and see what I missed while in bed. That hasbecome part of my morning routine.
So, this is my preface. This newobsession is very different from any teenager I know. What sparked it? An eventthat should happen to everyone. Something that transformed my state of mind andthe perception of what I had looked at for years, but am just now beginning tograsp.
Recall my earlier scenario, but this time, I am not avidlywatching CNN like it's a thrilling movie, trying to anticipate the next move ofthe antagonist. This time I am about to change CNN to my beloved"Friends" reruns. Then an image finds me. This image changes me. Areporter in Afghanistan shows a bunch of children, boys and girls surrounded by awar-torn, destitute ghost town. The reporter asks one of the boys a question and,because of his answer, I am forever indebted to him.
He said, "Weneed a school the most."
I never met this boy. He is a stranger. Heis one of those lives in a faraway place that I now think about while lying awakeat night. It was at that moment that I glued myself to the TV, forgetting aboutRoss and Rachel and the reruns of my favorite show. At that moment a differentchapter for my developing mind began.
Soon the news changed to anotherheadline. I looked at myself; I looked at my pajamas. There was a hole in them.On the floor next to my feet were the remains of my unfinished apple. I waswasteful. I solemnly walked to my room and sat on my bed. I glanced at my schoolbag and again thought about what that little boy had said, "We need a schoolthe most." I'm ungrateful, I thought. That little boy wants to go to schooland I am complaining about going there tomorrow.
It was at this pointthat I started to cry. I surprised even myself. I never cry about anything. Theycall me "the tough cookie," yet I was crying over some little boy Ihave never met, nor will ever see again, and how he wants to go to school. Hiswords made a footprint on my soul.
Ten minutes passed and I was stillsobbing hysterically. I needed comfort. I dialed my nonna's phone number. I knewshe sense my shaky voice, not to mention my pathetic attempt to give her a cheeryhello. She listened as I poured out my soul to her amid my sobs and quickbreaths. When I was finished, she comforted me as she always did without evenknowing it, and helped me to understand my confusion.
I hung up feelinga bit better, my tears subsiding, my short breaths growing longer. The littleboy's words, however, rushed back into my conscience, and again I cried. I feltas though I had some sort of responsibility for those children, a responsibilityto teach them, a responsibility to be grateful. To be grateful for their sakethat I have a place to go to learn and a home where I can walk around my yardwithout the fear of finding a land mine. Gratitude. A virtue that I now make sureencompasses my daily actions, words and inspirations.
I looked over at mynightstand and a Baci, my favorite Italian chocolate, was still sitting therewhere my mother had put it that morning. I can buy a piece of chocolate anytime Iwant, I realized. I'm grateful. I opened it and read the message inside:"Many people live happily without knowing it." How fitting.