When I was younger, I heard a story that enlightened me about what is right. One man saw another walking on a beach, throwing starfish trapped on the shore back into the sea. The man asked the other why he was doing this insane act because there were too many starfish to make a difference. The man looked at him, picked up another starfish and threw it in the ocean, saying, "I made a difference to that one."
I had never thought of life that way; I always looked at the big picture instead of the individual. My thoughts were so focused on myself that I was too stubborn to believe something could happen to me, too, until one night.
It was 3:30 a.m., but I was having a sleepover with one of my best friends. We were laughing and playing as if nothing bad could ever happen. Then the phone rang, and I answered.
My brother nonchalantly said, "Hey, Jennifer? I'm in the Emergency Room. I was just in a fight, naw ... it's cool. Get Mom."
I ran to my parents' room, and said, "Pick up the phone! Tom's hurt. He's in the Emergency Room." After ten minutes of worried and confused phone conversation, we were left in shock. But this was not the only thing we felt; the realization of a non-existent invincibility hit us.
Tom had gone to a club with two girls around midnight, and found it closed. Everyone was outside hanging out and dancing to their own tunes. A fight broke out between two groups. One gang left and the other began to beat a boy. The kid was on the ground, motionless, while they kicked his head. Tom had seen enough, so he pulled the boy out of the way, risking his life for a complete stranger. He got off a few good punches, but then the gang got mad and held him in a head lock while they kicked his head repeatedly.
Finally, one of the girls he was with got a bystander to pull Tom out. They took him to the Emergency Room, where he got stitches in his cheek. He also had a burst ear drum and a broken nose. The backs of his ears were black from the many kicks, and bruises covered his face.
I was the one who picked him up. I waited there, scared and alone, despite being surrounded by many others. I didn't know what to expect. Then I saw him, covered in cuts and bruises, but smiling. He seemed proud when he said, "I wish you could've seen the Skechers imprint on my forehead, it was hardcore!" I, of course, was appalled, but he just gave me a hug and walked to the car, smiling all the way.
He realized that he had saved that boy's life. The day after the fight, tons of people came up to him and told him he was a hero. This good Samaritan story spread, and though Tom never saw the boy he saved again, my brother changed his life. My brother changed the world.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.