This I Believe

Jamii - RENO, Nevada
Entered on December 6, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
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I believe that being an active role in society is what defines us, what brings us to say, “I did something extraordinary,” and what brings us face-to-face with reality. Giving back to others was never something I thought was truly beneficial, but now I am a leader for Nevada’s youth. I strolled into the room on a cold and dreary Monday morning and looked around; I was anxious, and confused. I was not sure what I was getting into, but I knew the reason I was there, to serve. I quickly turned around when I heard the floor creak. There was a small shadow inching its way toward me. Suddenly, the shadow shifted, and there was a young girl gazing up at me with fresh paint streaked across her fragile face. She slouched over in her wheelchair, eyes wide open in an excited stare, and there was a glimmer of light coming from the side of her mouth, she was drooling. “HELLO!” Her scream was piercing. After a few introductions, she guided me to my destination. I began my first lesson, “How to Improve your Self-Esteem.” When I started speaking, my young audience observed closely with open eyes and devoured every word I said. “The first lesson to improve your self-esteem is to face your fears. We all may feel scared or defeated at times, but if we face what we are scared of, our confidence will rise.” A young boy with thick brown eyeglasses and fire red hair raised his hand in excitement, “Ms. Jamii, sometimes when I do that, I get even more scared and run away.” The classroom erupted with laughter and the young boy sat back and eagerly awaited my response. I knew I had to make this moment count. I quickly put on an animated voice, “Well, what you do is pretend you are wearing the heaviest steel-toed shoes, and when you get scared you will not be able to move…” I was going to continue, when I paused and looked around the room. Thirty hungry little eyes stared at me with such awe, it was as if I just handed them a check for one million dollars. I continued, telling them of life lessons, and hardships. Not once did anyone look bored, anxious to leave, or non-responsive. Week after week, I continued to come back. The disability center was my escape from the town where I recently moved. I came from the mile-high city, Denver, CO and had to migrate to small-town Fallon, NV. I needed the disability center; it was my outlet. I wanted to give back to a group that needed so much, but asked for so little. The children in the center wanted nothing more than my companionship and words of wisdom. You may be thinking I am crazy for having this kind of patience, but think about it. You are in a room with 30 young children, you see drool cups, you hear slurring of words and screams of happiness, what would you do? I go back. I return week after week to the disability center, where these children learn how normalcy and creativity changes their lives. I learned many lessons from the disability center. Human life is one of the most valuable gifts. We should all appreciate what we are here to do, regardless of a disability that may hinder our ability to move forward. We must embrace our uniqueness, and that of others. From my experience, I learned to stand tall and become someone I was not. I defined myself; I became a leader.