Appreciating and Giving

Jennie - Santa Monica, California
Entered on June 18, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

I have two beliefs that cannot be separated. I believe in appreciation and I believe that appreciation demands giving.

When I was younger, I played on a club basketball team with the same group of girls for three years. Every weekend we would travel to tournaments all over California. One weekend while at a tournament in Orange County, our team had just played an afternoon game and everyone was hungry and ready for lunch.

We piled into the back seats of our parents’ minivans and caravanned around looking for somewhere we could all sit down and eat. All we found was a nearby Denny’s. We all ordered our food, but one of the girls on my team said she wasn’t hungry so she didn’t order anything. My dad immediately picked up on why she wasn’t hungry and told her quietly so that no one else heard that he would pay for her meal. When the waiter came back she ordered a cheeseburger, smiling happily. As soon as the food arrived, she quickly devoured her burger as if she hadn’t eaten in days. She later told me that she really hadn’t eaten for two days. She didn’t have any food in her house and her family couldn’t afford to buy any right now.

At this time I was still very naive. I didn’t know what starving meant. I had never had to worry about where I would get my next meal. I lived in a neighborhood where I didn’t think twice about whether it would be safe to take out the trash at night as some of my teammates did. Other than a few things I had learned in school or on the basketball court, I knew nothing about money or real life. I had been sheltered. But through witnessing my teammate’s situation that at first seemed unimaginable to me, I learned to truly appreciate everything I have.

By becoming aware of what others don’t have, I began to notice everything I do have — from a simple toothbrush to a bed to sleep on at night. Now I feel grateful and, rightly or wrongly, somewhat guilty that I have more privileges than some of my friends on my team.

But now that I’m older I believe in doing something a little more than being thankful. Something more hard-core, more effective, more helpful. I believe in giving in simple ways. It is something my dad has taught me through his pure generosity from buying cheeseburgers at Denny’s to giving people rides to their homes in dangerous areas to asking for sponsorships so that players on our team could be given scholarships.

I believe in appreciating my parents, the food on the table, the house that I live in. I believe in giving and sharing some food and sparing a buck or two. Most of all, I believe in a world where we all value the power of appreciation and generosity.