Who We Are

Elisabeth - Woodbine, Maryland
Entered on June 9, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe we don’t care enough. It seems so often we don’t appreciate everything that happens to us every day. Sometimes when I’m upset, I force myself to realize some of these things overlooked; for instance—I’ve been breathing all day today. Just take a deep breath and realize how good that feels. I was able to talk to my friends and we made each other laugh. I’m alive! I have the freedom to smile and the influence to make people happy. I have a voice, and I have an opinion. I have an enormous planet brimming with opportunities that’s waiting for someone to care and appreciate it. These things affect us. Why wouldn’t we care?

And as I was walking outside, thinking, I realized what it means to be alive. A slight wind blew softly, and my lungs filled with the cool, evening air. Why are we here? What unknown purpose do we have? Well…I don’t think we have just one purpose. We live 365 days each year (366 each leap year), and, being 16, I have experienced a lot more days than I’ve taken advantage of. And I’ve spent days wishing they’d just be done and over. But that never helped anything. It’s when I stood up and tried to do something about the situation that anything got better.

So why were we born? I don’t know, but for some reason we can think, and control ourselves, and we can learn things and teach things, and feel, and fall in love and—did you ever think how lucky we are that we were blessed with these opportunities? We didn’t have to be born. We could never have lived—spent eternity without the existence of our minds, our bodies, or our souls ever touching the world that moves and changes around us. It didn’t have to be us! … But it was. And as such, I think we should care.

With that in mind, I don’t think we value life enough, more or less our own, and probably not others’. A guy in my grade used to be a really close friend of mine. We don’t talk much anymore, and it’s both of our faults, his no more than mine. But as I was approaching my bus after school, he passed me and said, “I hope you get hit by lighting this weekend and die.” Needless to say, I was upset. I told my sister, who said he’d probably cry if it actually happened. But as it rained that weekend, I really thought he had meant to say it. I told myself there was no other reason he’d have told me that. I really thought I should never talk to him again, exactly because he doesn’t care. But if I never spoke to him again, who knows where he’ll end up? Would he continue doing that to people out of bitterness, or does he just say that to me? I would lose my once-best friend forever, and I’d become as bad a friend—maybe worse because I’d be doing it purposefully—to be the one who abandoned him. And maybe he has personal troubles at home that he won’t tell anyone about, and tries to hide. What kind of friend—person, even—would I be then, if I turned my back on him for good? But you can’t expect others to care instead of you. Every life has value, and you can turn bad around. Who are we to say we are more important than anyone else, or that we actually understand what they’re going through? Whether a person is your friend, family, relative, stranger—if you’re talking about someone in another country, or even the life of another species—you have no right to say you’re any better than they are. We’re all united because we’re all alive on the same earth with varying ways to make a difference. You shouldn’t denounce them, hurt them, or kill them whether in war, a slaughterhouse, or pure hatred. Every creature, because it is alive, has value. There is no set value to life that makes us better than anything or anyone else. We need to protect each other, not destroy us as a planet, as a whole. We were all born on this world and surely—with good faith I’ll attest—we were meant to live and take care of others, not bring them down. This I strongly believe.