This I Believe

Melissa - Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
Entered on October 15, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe that the best way to help yourself is to help others.

As a college student, I spend my hours at classes, meetings, study groups and of course, out with friends. But while many of my peers worry about which bar is having a drink special tomorrow night, I often worry about whether I’ve ordered enough balloons or whether Bon Jovi will ever return my call. Let me explain: I am the Director of Special Events for this year’s Fall Festival for Special Olympics Pennsylvania, the largest annual student-run Special Olympics in the nation. That means I’m in charge of all of the awards, entertainment, fundraising, and both the Opening and Closing Ceremonies—where I hoped to have Bon Jovi perform to go along with this year’s rock and roll theme.

I am the type of person who tries to do everything and to do it all perfectly. That means my to-do list is often pages long, and I frequently feel there are not enough hours in day. But every once in while, say in the shower or just before I drift off to sleep, as I run through my many responsibilities for the next day, I think to myself—Am I crazy for worrying that there won’t be enough balloons for balloon arches at the Fall Festival? Will the athletes even notice? Will anyone even care?

And then I realize that yes, they will care. Maybe no one will notice that we only have three balloon arches instead of four. Maybe no one will care that Miss Pennsylvania is speaking at Opening Ceremonies instead of Bon Jovi or Boyz II Men. But they will be having a great time, which never would’ve happened without all of my worrying and lofty ideas. Athletes will be cheering, dancing, smiling, competing, interacting; did I mention smiling? Those smiles are what make the countless hours of preparation and planning for the Fall Festival worth it. If I can make even one athlete happy even just for one weekend out of the entire year, I know I’ve made a difference.

I’ve been relatively lucky with my life—I have great family, friends and opportunities. But not everyone is so lucky. I’ve had 21 years to be selfish and to reap the benefits of having such good fortune. And I’ve realized that my only true happiness comes when I see my work benefiting those who have not been as blessed. Clothes, cars, a good drink special—these things are all fleeting. Knowing I’ve made someone’s life better, even just for an hour, that’s enduring—because at least the memory of that moment will last forever. This I believe.