This I Believe

Melissa - Clinton Township, Michigan
Entered on October 24, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
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It has always been natural for me to empathize with others. If you hurt, I hurt. If you cry, I cry too. I want to save the little girl in Africa whose only thought is of where her next meal will come from. I want to save the young mother who is physically abused by her husband on a nightly basis. I want to save the homeless man in Chicago who can’t even afford a pair of shoes. But how is it possible for a teenager such as myself to make such a large impact on the world? I’m only a child after all.

However, at eight years old, I learned I could make a difference. It was September 11th, 2001. What started out like any other day in Mrs. Jennings’ class evolved into a turning point in the lives of thousands of people, one of them my own. My mother picked me up from school at around 11:00 a.m. She took me home, where she told me of the morning’s events: two planes had been flown into the Twin Towers in New York City and another had been flown into the Pentagon. She turned on the television so I could see for myself the death and destruction that was consuming what had once been a lively city. I learned of the thousands of people who had already died and the firefighters risking their lives to save those innocent civilians trapped beneath the rubble.

I knew at once that I wanted to help. My mother and I were in downtown Mount Clemens when I asked, “Mommy, can I donate blood too?” She told me that they don’t usually let growing eight-year-old girls donate blood and that I would have to think of something else. “Mommy, why don’t we just donate money?” She told me that we weren’t poor, but we certainly weren’t in any situation to spare that kind of cash, and I had not yet come to terms with the fact that money doesn’t grow on trees. It was then that I turned to my mom and said, “Well why don’t we just raise it?” She smiled and the gleam in her eyes told me she had an idea. This could work.

When we arrived home, she immediately headed to the basement and began to rummage through bins full of old arts and crafts supplies until she found what she was looking for. It was a series of about ten safety pins strung together with red, white, and blue beads. The beads came together to form a picture that resembled the American Flag.

We immediately set to work making hundreds of these little pins at our kitchen table. Sometimes my neighbors would even come over to help out. We sold the pins to everyone we met: teachers, friends, family, store cashiers, the lady behind the counter at the post office, everyone. In the end, we had raised over a thousand dollars to donate to the brave firefighters in New York as well as their families. My good deed even earned me a spot on the front page of the local newspaper, which my teacher proudly displayed on the chalkboard. The feeling that consumed me was overwhelming. I had made a difference in somebody else’s life. That brought a grin to my face and a sense of love and compassion to my heart.

Seven years have passed since then, and my good deed has long been forgotten. But that’s not what matters to me. Somewhere out there, someone has a better life because of a little girl in Clinton Township, Michigan. Knowing that my contribution has changed the course of someone’s life brings more smiles to my face than any new high-tech gadget, or computer, or diamond necklace ever could.

I continue to do my best to make a difference in someone’s life everyday. Whether its leaving a generously large tip for the waiter at Olga’s or sticking a twenty dollar bill under the windshield wiper of an old beat up pick-up truck, I like knowing that I can make people happy through my actions. Making a difference in the world reminds me that my life has purpose; it reassures me that I am not a waste of space, despite what others may think. Nope, God put me on this Earth for a reason. He knew what he was doing when he created me. And I am going to do the best that I possibly can to live up to that.