Giving Back

Sandy - Ames, Iowa
Entered on January 4, 2009
Age Group: Under 18

I believe each one of us must use our abilities to give back to the world and improve the circumstances of humanity. Some may achieve this by dedicating their time and energy to volunteering, while others may choose to simply make monetary contributions to worthy causes. Still others may be able to utilize their knowledge to discover new ways to reduce human suffering.

My belief is rooted in a particular experience – my first true volunteering experience. During the summer before my sophomore year, I impulsively signed up to volunteer at the First National Special Olympics. It is a rare occurrence for anything of national importance to happen in the little Iowa town that I live in, so I did not want to miss taking part in an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. On a hot, humid morning in mid-June, I arrived at the registration desk for volunteers, unsure of what to expect. After picking up my name tag and a complimentary royal blue T-shirt, I was directed to the first event I would be helping out at – volleyball.

At the gymnasium where volleyball games were taking place, I was assigned a variety of tasks, including assisting line judging and running results up to the score room. Most of the time, I stayed in the gymnasium and got a clear view of the action. Having played volleyball in middle school, I could recognize and admire the talent of these athletes. Although their abilities were perhaps not at the level of Olympic athletes, their dedication and optimism inspired me much more than watching any Olympic volleyball game could. After every point, on both sides of the net there would be an abundance of back slaps and high fives, whether the point had been won or lost. Joyful smiles were plentiful, while frowns were rare.

I was honored to be a part of such an inspiring occurrence. It was obvious that even though these players had been through hardships unimaginable for me, they loved the game of volleyball. Their appreciation for the sport and the opportunity to be playing it shone through in their faces. The experience caused me to reflect on how lucky I was to have so many opportunities when some of these athletes had to work so hard to achieve even the most modest goal. It also opened my eyes to how valuable volunteering is. Along with the thousands of other volunteers there, I had helped make this event possible. My volunteering experiences have taught me that giving back to the community and in time the world is ultimately the most important thing one can accomplish.