There in Your Own Backyard

Paul - Sussex, Wisconsin
Entered on May 4, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30

When you turn on the television and you see a commercial to donate time or money to an organization, their efforts are normally going to some far away country. Now it is nice for some people to send thousands of dollars to struggling countries in the world, but most people forget about their own backyards.

The problem is most people do not even know that their neighbors or family members need help, whether it is financial, physical or mental. Americans in general are a very independent and proud people; my family and I are no different. Most of us do not want to admit that we need help at all. So when I say that the person next to you could really be in need of assistance it is not that hard to believe, especially in these difficult times.

I come from a small village in Wisconsin. Now in my community crime was almost non-existent, the children all played together and our parents were firmly in the middle class bracket. Everyone looked happy and in truth many of them probably were happy. The man across the street was your typical neighbor. I knew that he was an ex-Marine, who always was working outside on projects for his house. However, one day he was cleaning his gutters and his latter slipped and he fell and broke his lower back. He was paralyzed from the waist down. I was only ten years old at the time, but my father insisted that my family help him and his wife get reorganized. My father and I, mostly my father, built a wheel chair ramp so that he could get into his house more easily. Meanwhile, my mother and his wife reorganized the cabinets in the kitchen so that he could reach the basic necessities of everyday life.

Spending time with our neighbors allowed us to get a unique view of their personal lives. The stories they told about their past, their children, and their new look toward the future. This experience gave me a perspective that I did not expect.

After that week, I began to realize that even if the outside of a home looks like everything is ok, that does not mean that it is. My family helped a next door neighbor. We did not spend thousands of dollars, and we did not have to drive or fly anywhere to help, we just walked across the street. We did not spend many hours to revamp the house, but we did get to see the joy it brought to our neighbors. We tried to make their lives a little easier. I believe we did what we could, with what we had, where we were. So next time you see your neighbor struggling with something do not wait for help to come to him, be the help. The work does not have to be hard for it to be worthwhile; it just has to be from the heart.