Our nation has enjoyed continuous prosperity and an ever-increasing standard of living. Many other countries have experienced wars and economic failures that have forced them to start over and rebuild their lives; however, most of today’s Americans have never had to endure such misfortune. I, too, enjoyed “the good life” until August 29, 2005.
My life changed forever when Hurricane Katrina devastated my hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana. Many lost everything in the tragedy that was, until then, unknown in scale in the United States. Lives were both lost and devastated; relocation often required families to separate. My family experienced our home and schools flooded, businesses lost, and careers scuttled. Living this reality as a high school freshman, I was forced to accept un-welcomed change and experience things that hopefully many never will.
I know now that material possessions are fleeting. Through loss, my eyes were opened to what is truly invaluable – faith, family, and community. I have come to fully learn the fundamental teachings of the Catholic faith, such as rejecting materialism and embracing humility and selflessness. These are guiding principles for leading a happy and fulfilling life. I realized such a time of great suffering beckons the call to help my fellow man. Since Katrina, I have been especially motivated to serve my community through various service activities. My efforts in Habitat for Humanity, Second Harvesters Food Bank, Youth Rebuilding New Orleans, and even the American Diabetes Association are some of the ways I have responded to the call. In addition, I found it good therapy to help others who lost even more than I.
Although possessions, community, and even family can be taken away, I have learned that faith is enduring. It is faith that is my guiding light in times of tragedy and crisis. My faith allows me to pack my life in a box every time an evacuation is ordered. Faith in knowing that no matter how little is left when I return, I still have the important things that can not be taken. I have come to appreciate the everyday things in life. Gifts like the sunrise on my morning commute to school, Sunday dinner with the family, and time spent with my grandparents are such that make life worth living.
Now that our country is in the beginning of economic crisis, my generation will have to face perhaps a declining standard of living. However, that does not mean the quality of the life we live must also decline. I hope to teach my peers that it is important not to get attached to material possessions, and remind them that we must be thankful for what we do have, relying upon faith to guide us through life. I will encourage others to invest in their human capital, the things that can not be taken away, and to embrace a more optimistic perspective.
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