This I Believe

Jane - Silver Spring, Maryland
Entered on June 28, 2006

This I believe: I am a very lucky individual.

I am lucky that I was born in the United States. I am lucky that I was born into a middle-class family as that has afforded me tremendous opportunity. I am lucky that I have a family that cares deeply about me and my well being, though at times they are frustrating and demanding and I wish I lived in a sitcom where everything was resolved in 30 minutes. I am lucky to have gone to good schools where teachers encouraged learning and thought and not just memorization. I am lucky to have been raised listening to classical music and exposed on a regular basis to the arts. I am lucky to have developed friendships with amazing people who teach me about listening. I am lucky to have been raised with pets because that taught me both about responsibility and that unconditional love and comfort can come from, and be extended to, all things. I am lucky that one of my employers allowed me to work part-time so that I could go to graduate school and increase my knowledge and understanding of a field I enjoy. I am lucky to be, for the most part, debt free. I am lucky now, that at this point in my life, in my early 30s, I have a safe place to live and that I have chosen a field of work that keeps me challenged and engaged on a day-to-day basis.

With all of this luck, I have also learned that I have a responsibility. I believe I have a responsibility to my family, my friends, my community, my country and to the world. And as cheesy as it may sound, I believe that I must take the advantages I was given, and as they would say on TV, use my powers for good instead of evil. If I, as one person, can make a difference, then I should. If I can think of a way to help someone, be it through listening, making someone smile, giving someone a sandwich, contributing to a charity I believe in, or trying to change, even a little bit, the disparity I see around the world, then I should.

I have traveled to many countries in the last decade and I have seen true poverty. I have seen situations that have made me feel helpless, and in some cases hopeless. I have seen children that haven’t eaten for days in Sierra Leone. I have seen parents that sacrifice everything they have left for those children. I have seen the devastation that war, like that in southern Sudan, can wreak on a society and how difficult it is to rebuild and forgive. I have seen orphans living on the street. I have seen African women my age with many children working from sun up to sun down doing backbreaking labor and living on so little you wonder how they survive. I have my heart broken everyday when I think about one child under five, somewhere in the world, dying every three seconds from a preventable cause. So in the course of reading this essay—over 60 children have died. This is contemptible and unacceptable. This is why I chose to study public health and work in humanitarian assistance. I believe I can make a difference.

I have also seen the smile of a child in school for the first time. I have received the generosity of a person in India who lost everything in an earthquake, but welcomed me into their tent and offered me food or drink as is befitting their culture. I have seen the difference a food ration can make for a child in an Indonesian slum. I have felt the pride of a woman learning to read in Afghanistan.

I believe I am lucky—and with all that I have seen and learned, and continue to learn—I believe in myself; that I can be a positive force to effect change for those who aren’t as lucky as me.