This I Believe

Laura - Round Lake Park, Illinois
Entered on May 2, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe that one person can make a difference in someone else’s life. I believe that working in a soup kitchen or cleaning up a park is well worth missing that three hour marathon of your favorite TV show. I believe that helping your community or a neighbor can have extraordinary results. I believe in volunteering.

Five years ago I was forced to be a volunteer. I was in the process of receiving my religious confirmation, and one of the requirements involved a certain amount of hours of volunteer work. Lending myself to the service of others did not appeal to me as a good time and required some self- pep talks. However after the day’s end, I realized that the work was not all that bad and that I actually felt good about myself. That experience made it easier for me to participate in future volunteer jobs that would appear. I would feel so satisfied with myself that I would make even more of an effort to help with a good cause. For example, getting up at 5:30AM the morning after prom to partake in a walk for abused women normally wouldn’t attract my attention. But having been through other volunteer jobs, I knew the personal accomplishment would be enough motivation to help me un-glue myself from my bed.

My most proud moment came when I took a group trip to Mississippi last summer to help clean up some of the mess that Hurricane Katrina left behind. We spent one week repairing one house from the major flood damage it suffered. We took the end of one of our days to drive down to the coast and witness for ourselves the chaos that Mother Nature can create. The feeling I got when I saw that coast was as bitter and heartrending as losing a loved one. It was impossible to absorb so much heartbreak all at once. After seeing such destruction, I was driven to put as much hard work and effort into that house as I could before the end of the week came. I didn’t care how hard or painful the job was as long as I achieved something.

It’s that kind of work that I believe deserves respect. People who give up their free time to assist others deserve to be recognized. So many people only care about what they want, not even giving others a second thought. Volunteers put others before themselves. They expect neither a payment nor a reward for the things they do. Their greatest reward is to see the smiles of others and to experience the overwhelming feeling of knowing that they are making a difference in the lives of others.