Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Purpose of Life is not to be Happy it is to be Useful.... (Emerson)

(from an online student summer 2015 omg I have great students!!!)

Random Act of Kindness

Many people underestimate the minor things in life that can actually make a difference to another person. One kind word, one gesture, one simple display of love from one individual to another could mean so much than we could ever imagine. There are endless ways to pass along kindness, from just wishing someone a good day to volunteering around the community. By dedicating a few hours each week to brighten up the community park or volunteering to help construct a home, you can bring great joy to some child’s life and warmth to a family living on the streets. I wish to share with you an instance when a random act of kindness made a difference in a little boy’s life and changed me as well.
Like most typical, egotistical college students, I have lived most of my growing up years with the belief that the world revolves around me and my desires. However, my worldview changed when I started volunteering this summer. What was initially a prerequisite for a class I was taking became something I am now passionate about and plan to continue doing it for the rest of my life. Initially, I was not sure how best to dedicate my time to helping others; I had too many alternatives. So, went I online and did some research, and what I discovered knocked the wind out of me. Apparently, hunger is a growing issue in America today with millions of working class families facing poverty and job losses. Federal safety net programs, such as emergency cash assistance and food stamps programs have been overstretched and are actually serving far fewer people compared to those who are eligible or in need. These families suffer immense stress, and numerous households are regularly compelled to choose between having a meal and paying for utilities. They either reduce food rations or entirely skip one or two meals a day. This is concerning especially when little children are involved and cannot fend for themselves. If children don’t get enough food or only eat “filler” foods, they become vulnerable to sickness more often, suffer from psychological distress and cognitive delays, dismal performance in school and may even develop diabetes. In fact, many consequences of malnutrition in children are irreversible.
I learned of an organization called Food for Thought in my area that provides food to children whose parents cannot afford to give them three balanced meals in a day. Even though disadvantaged children in public schools get government assistance and are fed breakfast and lunch, these meals are only available during school days. When school is out during weekends and holiday breaks, such children find it hard to feed themselves. Food for Thought aims to mitigate this burden by providing some of these children with a backpack filled with food every Friday to sustain them during the weekend. I volunteered for weekend duties a few weekends this summer, packing food in backpacks, picking up donations, and helping out in organizing community events.
One day during the summer, while on a delivery errand, I passed a young boy pushing his bike on the side of the road, but I did not think twice about the situation as I was in a hurry and was already late with the delivery. On my way back, I saw the kid again. He was seated on a log by the roadside, his bike on the grass right next to him. He looked really tired. I was concerned and pulled to the side to have a talk with him. He told me he was on his way to a summer meal site five miles away when his bike broke down. He had hoped to get a free healthy meal at the site. Unfortunately, he could not continue with the trip and had to return home. He was really haggard, hungry, and sad even, but he tried his best to hide this from me. We talked a little longer. I learned he was 12 years old; lived with his mom and three brothers; his mom was currently unemployed but used to work two jobs just to make ends meet; his father left when he was just a baby and on most days he barely has enough to eat.
I felt bad for not stopping when I first saw him. I was also angry because many people had passed by in their cars without even noticing the young boy and his bike. I phoned my mom and asked if I could bring a friend over for a late lunch, she said it was okay. After lunch, my uncle Bert came over to have a look at the bike. He is quite a handyman and repaired the bike within no time. I drove him back to his place. For a boy his age, he was really grateful in a composed kind of way, but I could tell that what I had done had an impact on him. Later that week I had a talk with the manager at Food for Thought and recounted the boys situation. She agreed that the situation was sad, and something had to be done. Unfortunately, It was the organization’s policy not to drop food off at the beneficiary’s home. I offered to do the delivery on my own if the organization would donate the food. She agreed to this and for two months I drove to his home every three days with enough food to sustain the whole family between my visits. I did this for two months till the mom got a good job and could afford to take care of him and his brothers.
In conclusion, by volunteering at Food for Thought, I was able to step out of my world and experience life from other people’s perspective. Furthermore, the experience with the boy made me gain a clear understanding of life and its dynamics because I got to appreciate what I have vis-à-vis what others needed. Volunteering motivates people to consider others and become compassionate. Once you see how your contribution has made an impact in other people’s lives, this tends to contribute to one’s personal growth in terms of self-confidence, self-fulfillment, and self-esteem which definitely enhanced by the volunteering experiences. Honestly, I don’t intend to stop volunteering any time soon. 1Ralf Waldo Emerson once stated that the purpose of life is not to be happy. 2It is to be useful, to be compassionate, and to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. I will continue working with various organizations that seek to make this world a better place for everyone. The little time I give can hardly be compared to what I have gained from the volunteering experience.