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A Personal Mission This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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"Pursuesome path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love andreverence. Where a man separates from the multitude and goes his own way, thereis a fork in the road, though the travelers along the highway see only a gap inthe paling."
- Henry David Thoreau

   I peeredanxiously over the edge of my seat. Signs of a coming sandstorm hovered in thesky, and the driver fidgeted and mumbled a string of incoherent words. The ridewas bumpy and the heat was intolerable, with the temperature at 100 degrees. Iglanced at my mother, who wiped beads of sweat from her forehead with herflower-patterned handkerchief.

"How much farther, Mom?" I askedimpatiently, as I swatted several sand flies that droned near my ears. My motherdidn't answer but squinted through the dusty air as the Jeep jumped over yetanother sand dune. Frustrated by her silence, I distracted myself by drawing wavylines and squiggles on the sand-covered windows.

I was an eleven-year-oldchild then, and we lived in North Africa. My mother was sent overseas with theMedical Corps to deliver health care to the local people. There were no suitableschools, so I was home-schooled. This gave me plenty of time to explore my newenvironment and accompany my mother on home visits. Though my education wasloosely structured, it provided a rare chance to gain insight into the culture,people and customs. To me, though, tagging along with my mother to see herpatients just meant another boring trip for two hours in the sweltering heat andbeing bitten by hundreds of flies.

Finally, the oasis appeared, whichsignaled the village. We stopped at a small tent, where friendly goats and sheepgreeted us. A man emerged from a tent clad in a tattered robe. His face was linedwith worry, but softened when he saw my mother.

"Sabahar," hesaid, as he received her gratefully. He led us into the dimly lit tent withhundreds of flies, and the ground was dusty and dirty. I held my mother's handtighter, in discomfort and disbelief at the conditions. She shot me a look ofannoyance, letting go of my hand as we were led to a stricken woman whose facewas pallid and emaciated. Five children gathered around her, all with tears intheir eyes. One of the girls was my age, and I felt a pang of pity as I saw hersoiled hands and matted hair. My mother took out her stethoscope to examine thewoman, who muffled cries of pain and discomfort. She had been sick with a feverfor three days, and had severe cramps. I stood in the corner with her children,who sat anxiously. My mother gave her a shot, and we waited an hour for her feverto subside. She managed to get out of bed after emerging from her semi-consciousphase, and insisted on brewing us Arabic sweet tea out of her gratitude for mymother. While we sipped from the dirty cups, the grateful husband searched thetent and handed us a hard-boiled egg, which my mother gave to me.

When weleft, the children waved. The ride home was bumpy, but I didn't mind, since I wassavoring the delicious egg. The driver was engaged in a quiet conversation withmy mother, and though they murmured, I could make out a few words. He explainedhow impoverished the family was, and that they had sold their two camels and wereleft with only a few goats and sheep. My mother sighed with sympathy, and thedriver told her that she was the first doctor to accept what the family was ableto pay - the egg I had just eaten. A strange feeling gathered at mythroat.

That day changed my life forever. I vowed to be someone who couldbring comfort to patients' lives. I gave myself a personal mission to help thosein need regardless of what they could pay. To this day, I follow my childhoodmantra, seeking neither fame nor wealth, but the greatest satisfaction ofgratitude and service.






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Copyright 2006 by Teen Ink, The 21st Century and The Young Authors Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.
Thispublication may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system ortransmitted in any form or by any means,
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This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the May 2003 Teen Ink Travel Contest.





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