Two years after I began riding horses, a small therapeutic riding center opened. Thinking I could obtain some community service hours, I attended the training session and learned how I could help people by walking a horse around for an hour. It seemed simple enough. I began going twice a week and helping out extra whenever I could. The youngest child in the program was an eight year old boy. The first time I saw him, he was in a wheel chair, his small body twisted grotesquely. For months, he was quiet and couldn’t do much by himself. Soon, however, he would say a few words and, before long, he was using only a walker to come in and out of the barn.
I always enjoyed working with little boy. As time went on, he got progressively more involved with the horses. One week, his mother asked me to come out to the car. I walked out and saw her son standing up all by himself. He took my hand, stood straight, and walked with an air of pride and appreciation for his new ability. After getting the horse ready, I lead him into the arena. It seemed like yesterday I had to walk beside him but now he held himself straight in the saddle. I glanced back to check on him, just to make sure he was okay. Sitting up tall in his saddle, he caught me and did something I barely, if ever saw him do; he smiled. I smiled back and laughed when he asked, “Can we go faster now?”
I believe in the power of volunteering. Not only for the benefits of those in need, but for the sense of accomplishment and fulfillment one can achieve by serving others. Walking into the barn, I never thought that I would experience something as amazing as I did that day. Through my time volunteering, I gained a newfound appreciation for the fact that I could work with my horse and live life without worrying about whether or not what I was doing would hurt. No matter how small the act, any volunteering can be beneficial. Someone once said “by helping others, we help ourselves.” I never knew what they meant until that day, when I looked back and saw a smile that would change my life. It wasn’t the Mona Lisa or the Cheshire cat, it was a little boy who had come in, broken both inside and out, and had become so strong. I never expected that he would have such an impact. It was his smile that would decide for me where my life is going; now I plan on working with special needs children as a career. I don’t remember his disease; I remember the strength I saw reflected in his smile. I believe in the power of volunteering, of giving oneself to benefit others and being surprised when they benefit you as well.
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