This I Believe

Rachel - San Antonio, Texas
Entered on August 2, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

Everyone can make a difference

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.” I think service to humankind is one of the noblest things a person can do. In life, I believe everyone should find a way to serve.

My service in life started at the age of fifteen with work at Camp C.A.M.P.—a summer camp for children with disabilities. I worked there six summers. At C.A.M.P., we proudly stated we accepted any child who wanted to come; during my time, I worked with children with feeding tubes, children with brain damage after gun shot wounds, children with AIDS, and hundreds more.

I even met my husband at C.A.M.P. When people ask him if he dislikes changing a baby’s dirty diaper, he responds, “You’ve never changed a diaper until you’ve done it on a 21-year-old, 300 pound person with autism who is standing up and trying to hit you over the head.”

My next experience was in City Year, where I spent four days a week tutoring and mentoring in an elementary school on the East side of San Antonio. Fridays were spent in activities such as painting a house, cleaning a park, or building with Habitat for Humanity. I also had the chance to travel to Washington D.C., where I heard Jeffrey Swartz, the founder and CEO of Timberland, say, “There is a gap between the way things are and the way things can be, and you are in that gap.”

I know as a generation, we can close the gap between reality and possibility if everyone tries. Too many people call this generation self-centered, greedy, and materialistic. But I have seen fourteen-year-olds do things many other people would consider impossible.

Lots of people don’t serve because they think what they can do isn’t enough. But as the story of the starfish says, it makes a difference to that one. It makes a difference to the person you serve. In over 4,000 hours of volunteerism in my life, I learned that one small action can make a difference and close that gap between reality and possibility. Adopt a shelter dog, donate a pint of blood, click on The Hunger Site to feed a child, become a teacher, recycle the next water bottle you want to throw away. With so many ways to serve, both big and small, the focus is not about how you serve, but that you serve.

I agree with Dr. King and Mr. Swartz that everyone should share in the responsibility of making their community a better place to live. We have not yet closed the gap between reality and the way the world can be, but I think we’re getting there, one act of service at a time.