If I Had Not Realized

Samuel - Marietta, Georgia
Entered on December 17, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

Our world is coming to an end. We are running out of energy, nutrition, and hope. What can we do to save our planet and ourselves? That’s easy: recycle.

Last Christmas, my grandmother put a pen made of cardboard and popsicle sticks in my hand unwrapped and said “Merry Christmas.” I can picture what my face looked like, with disappointment and fake gratitude. What would you do if you got such a lame gift after having your young heart set on a bunch of new things? An ipod, a video game, some DVDs, maybe even a new pair of shoes, but not a recycled piece of junk.

I did not realize it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

That pen, probably free, and picked up by my grandmother in one of her Fort Myers beach shops, was the most thoughtful and lovely gift I ever got, because it embodied the spirit of Christmas. Made of old and weary parts, the pen was constructed into something fresh and new. And that philosophy, I realized a year later, resembles people. People get a break from work to be reenergized over the holidays, and surround themselves in the comfort and joy of their family.

I was selfish and spoiled. Everything I got for Christmas that year is sitting on a shelf right now, going to waste.

I know a pen is not spectacular, but what it stood for opened my eyes to see the beauty and precious creations of recycling. To explain my point, what is more beautiful to you, the Mona Lisa or a statue of soda cans? I believe a creation of junk, that stands alone, compiled into something worthwhile, is just as valuable as a masterpiece.

That’s how I look at people. That’s how I look at strangers I’ve never seen before. Like a homeless man, standing on the side of the road in a dirty trench coat, rugged, sweating in the beating sun, and holding a white poster only saying “THE END IS NEAR.” I thought he was crazy, but later, when I’m at peace with myself and the world, all alone, I’ll see him again, and I’ll be in awe of his power.

I try to put myself in his shoes. What if I was homeless and had nothing? Could I have picked myself off the street and do something with what was left of me? Can I assemble the junk in my life into something beautiful?

I made the choice that I can.

This I believe: in the end, it won’t matter if how many goodies we get; all that will matter is how much heart and soul we put into making the world a better place than it was when we came into it.

Make someone smile again.