I believe in compassion. I believe in helping those who are in a time of crisis, whether it’s the homeless, the sick or the needy. It’s what keeps me grounded. I am sympathetic because once upon a time I lived under inopportune circumstances. In Afghanistan, my family was well off. My maternal grandfather was the mayor of a major city while my paternal grandfather owned the largest transportation company in the region. I was used to comfort and stability. All of that changed when I came to the US. If it was up to me, I wouldn’t have left because I was content and secure. But my parents felt like they had no choice. The political instability and violence of Afghanistan caused them to leave behind family, home, and careers. They hoped that the U.S. would allow my siblings and me to become educated and accomplished individuals.
Back home, people knew who I was when I mentioned my last name. Here, I was just like anyone else. We had nobody and were all alone in a country that was alien to us. My family and I lived a difficult life. We lived in a single bedroom apartment and never bought anything that we wanted, only what we needed. Therefore, I had to grow up fast. Unlike other kids, I never asked for a new toy or the latest fashion. I didn’t have the luxury of carrying out a lifestyle that I thought I deserved. But I never complained. Slowly things improved. I remember being at CVS and mustering enough courage to ask my dad if I could buy a dark blue nail polish. He nodded. I was ecstatic because I had something that I could call my own. Soon enough, I had a room that I could call my own.
Nowadays, I am so busy that sometimes I forget the hardships that my family and I endured. But when I look at a homeless person, I remember how I never had enough money to buy what I wanted. When I look at a sick person, I remember how I felt my life was falling apart. I remember feeling hopeless and alone. I remember. That is why I believe in alleviating the stress and suffering of those who live a life that denies them luxury. That is why I make an effort to smile at a bedridden person. That is why I rummage through my purse for a dollar when I see a homeless individual with a crude sign begging at traffic intersections.
My personal experiences have made me humble. I sympathize. I understand. I hope. I strive to be more giving each day. Every Monday, I see the same homeless guy by the metro station. I make sure that I have a dollar handy so that I can drop in his coca-cola cup. At work, I volunteer to translate for someone whose native language isn’t English. I realize that they feel overwhelmed and alienated. I visit a local retirement home on holidays to spend time with residents whom I befriended while working there. I hope that my visits make them feel like they are cared for. I know that I am a very small part of the society we live in. I know that I cannot impact everyone’s lives. But I do what I can. And that’s what makes me feel good at the end of the day. I believe in compassion and its power to make me feel fulfilled.
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