The Answer

Michelle - Darien, Illinois
Entered on May 12, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

“Everyone is different. You are unique.” This philosophy is a familiar one to all those who have ever sat in a classroom and looked at the brightly colored posters plastered on the walls. It is a widely accepted belief.

As much as the concept has been beaten into my head, and as simple as it would be to believe, I cannot. This I do believe: We are all the same.

The birth of my philosophy came after the shootings at Virginia Tech University and in an online conversation that I had with a friend during the weeks following the tragedy. The typical question of “why” was discussed, and one explanation came to me. The need to condemn those who we do not understand is an ancient and universal one. As a result, I realized, people are so worried about defining themselves and giving themselves a particular name under a specific religion or belief that they forget we all basically want the same things. The world wants freedom, love, peace, a pronouncement of beauty, and happiness. Is the reason for tragedies like the shootings at Virginia Tech a public incomprehension of this idea? Could they be avoided if every man, woman, and child were no longer seen through eyes clouded by racial, ethnic, and social discrimination? It became clear to me that they could be.

Months after this conversation was held, I revisited the idea while volunteering in Lake Geneva as a camp counselor for young adults with autism and Down syndrome. I was thrown into a world completely foreign to the typical high school student, and I discovered that one of the best ways to realize that differences are imagined is to work and play alongside those who have been marked by society as different. The campers taught me that we all desire to be hugged and shown affection. We all yearn to be respected and understood. Most importantly, I realized differences in communication mean nothing. A camper would stand at each meal and say a prayer of thanks for the food we had been given, and even if his or her words were incomprehensible, the message was undeniably familiar.

We all have faith, and we all have beliefs. Everyone wishes for a better world, a chance for peace, and an opportunity to be heard. This has been made extremely clear to me, and I can’t help but wonder what would happen if this were common knowledge. What miracles would occur if we all banded together under a common desire? I know that it sounds impossible. I know that the world has been taught, again and again, that we are all unique, and that this should be celebrated. But I have come to believe, without any doubt, that it IS possible. This I believe: we are all the same, and this is the answer.

“Everyone is different. You are unique.” This philosophy is a familiar one to all those who have ever sat in a classroom and looked at the brightly colored posters plastered on the walls. It is a widely accepted belief.

As much as the concept has been beaten into my head, and as simple as it would be to believe, I cannot. This I do believe: We are all the same.

The birth of my philosophy came after the shootings at Virginia Tech University and in an online conversation that I had with a friend during the weeks following the tragedy. The typical question of “why” was discussed, and one explanation came to me. The need to condemn those who we do not understand is an ancient and universal one. As a result, I realized, people are so worried about defining themselves and giving themselves a particular name under a specific religion or belief that they forget we all basically want the same things. The world wants freedom, love, peace, a pronouncement of beauty, and happiness. Is the reason for tragedies like the shootings at Virginia Tech a public incomprehension of this idea? Could they be avoided if every man, woman, and child were no longer seen through eyes clouded by racial, ethnic, and social discrimination? It became clear to me that they could be.

Months after this conversation was held, I revisited the idea while volunteering in Lake Geneva as a camp counselor for young adults with autism and Down syndrome. I was thrown into a world completely foreign to the typical high school student, and I discovered that one of the best ways to realize that differences are imagined is to work and play alongside those who have been marked by society as different. The campers taught me that we all desire to be hugged and shown affection. We all yearn to be respected and understood. Most importantly, I realized differences in communication mean nothing. A camper would stand at each meal and say a prayer of thanks for the food we had been given, and even if his or her words were incomprehensible, the message was undeniably familiar.

We all have faith, and we all have beliefs. Everyone wishes for a better world, a chance for peace, and an opportunity to be heard. This has been made extremely clear to me, and I can’t help but wonder what would happen if this were common knowledge. What miracles would occur if we all banded together under a common desire? I know that it sounds impossible. I know that the world has been taught, again and again, that we are all unique, and that this should be celebrated. But I have come to believe, without any doubt, that it IS possible. This I believe: we are all the same, and this is the answer.