This I Believe

Lisa - Irvine, California
Entered on January 14, 2007

I believe that our darkest times can be a light for someone else.

At 13, through a junior high school counselor, I learned to be a sounding block, a safe friend, a tutor for those far worse off than me. My parent’s divorce, the drama that came with it and all of the past life that I felt I had been wronged by could always be worse. How lucky I was… though I did not know it … until this incredible person stepped into my life and taught me, along with a group of scrappy, out of place students, to use our background, our compassion and our empathy to help those who were well worse off then us.

Throughout that school year I heard the horror stories of children my age fleeing their country of origin, I witnessed students my age toil with academic work well below grade level and I became privy to my friends’ struggles and truth that went well beyond the lunchtime chit chat in the quad. When I worked with children, my own age, with Down syndrome and brain damage, my world suddenly seemed much easier. When I spoke with friends who shared their dark family secrets my world seemed lighter. In taking us out of our own world she showed us that things could always be worse – that, no matter what we had been through, or what we were going through, someone was having a more difficult time. Our hardest lesson: life was not always going to be easy but it was those experiences that we needed to use to help others. Suddenly life’s occurrences were no longer a happenstance and it was hard to just drift through life.

Though we never spoke after my junior year of high school, she stayed with me throughout the difficult times – reminding me of who I was, what I was capable of doing and where I was capable of going. She was my inspiration for helping others in more need than I. Her impact stayed with me to help me in my times of need as well. Later in life when I questioned whether or not I would succeed in difficult situations: Marine Corps boot camp, getting out of bad relationships and going to college as an “older” student, I would think of that counselor and remember why this was “doable.”

In the countless lives we touch, it takes only one of those lives to save a myriad of others. Therefore, I believe it is our responsibility to share our experience and hope, offering light in the darkness.