Friday, December 18, 2015

Service Project: Alex's Story: The fantastic thing is that when you plant a seed of love, support, and appreciation in someone, that seed grows.

 (Student Essay Fall 2015)
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
            During the fall semester of my sophomore year of college, I was surprised to discover that my American history class would include completing an act of service. Despite being someone who has participated in many community service projects and volunteering, I quickly found out that it would not be a simple task to find the time within my busy schedule - as a full time student by day and part time employee by night – to dedicate to the proper undertaking of an act of service. When I learned of Alex’s story through history class, I decided sending a holiday care package to him would be the ideal opportunity to show appreciation and respect for such an inspirational peer that sat in the same classroom as I did, yet did not have the fortune of experiencing the same privilege I did.
 Following his time as a student at Tallahassee Community College, the subsequent novel he co-wrote, “Prayer of the Laughing Yoga Frog”, illustrated the injustice Alex and many other differently abled people had to face. Around this same time of year not long ago, Alex discovered that his aid, who entrusted to guide him and protect his safety while at school, betrayed him by abusing him financially with the continuous withdrawal of funds from Alex’s account throughout the fall semester. Personally, the detail of Alex’s story that stung me the most was how this realization came after Alex attempted to purchase a Christmas present for the aid. As a reader, this epitomizes the genuine nature of Alex’s heart and the outrageousness of the offense against him. Many abusers come from a background of being abused, and for someone in Alex’s position it would have been all too easy to be broken by the transgression and forever remained sullied and spread that pain to others. I’m thankful for Alex’s ability to continue steadfast and strong despite setbacks like this experience was.
Empathizing, I imagine that every Christmas this poignant memory re-emerges for Alex, and in spirit of his generosity and thoughtfulness he tried to show the aid, I believe that Alex is the person who deserves his own Holiday care package. Armed with the knowledge from Dr. Soldani that Alex adores candy, I embarked on a search around Tallahassee for the best quality candy I could acquire. Snickers, skittles, and butterfingers were all too ordinary and over-produced for such an exceptional person as Alex, so my first stop on my quest was to Lofty Pursuits, a novelty ice cream store that creates their own old-fashioned hard candies right there in the shop. Under the title of “Victorian Hard Candies” I bought three different varieties: brightly colored cherry-lemon tomahawks in true Tallahassee pride, an American flag themed flavor called “Old Glory”, and a bag of holiday flavors such as eggnog and peppermint. One more detail, a tutti frutti candy cane, seemed to complete the holiday spirit.
Determined to cover all the fundamental principles of candy, I knew my holiday packaged was not yet complete. The World Market Bazaar was like stepping into candy-land and an assortment was selected after a great amount of thought – it’s not easy candy shopping for someone you’ve never personally met, so I attempted to be as eclectic as possible. I chose a packet of gourmet peppermint flavored hot cocoa mix, an assortment of English gourmet licorice, fruit-flavored bubblegum, kiwi gummies from Japan, and of course, a hefty chocolate bar combined with crisp honeycomb pieces. The only thing missing was a hand written note including a drawing I made of my own frog, inspired by Alex. As an artist it is imperative to me to include a piece of my own artwork to show my appreciation. I felt at peace as I boxed up Alex’s gifts at the post office in a flat rate box and handed it off with its shipping label – awaiting its opening merely days later in Palm Coast, Florida.
It is impossible for me to entirely know how Alex will feel about my gift to him, but I can anticipate that it will bring him some happiness and if it can bring him just an inch more of peace of mind and assurance about the people in this world, then I will have considered this a success. Alex and I come from entirely different perspectives on this world we share, however I very well know the feeling of being betrayed by someone you trusted and how it can rob you of all desire to trust new people or forgive those who have hurt you. That type pain has the power to incapacitate people, and thus in a way completing this act of service helped me reach out to someone else and let go of some of the fear I have held on to from my betrayal as well. Alex’s story called on me to attempt to see through his perspective, and then see his experience through my perspective. Satisfaction was brought to me by setting aside hours dedicated solely for discovering the best candies I could for Alex and thinking of how he will feel when he finally eats them.
            I do know that for Alex this transcends far beyond a simple American history class assignment. Receiving his holiday care package, schedule to arrive Monday December 14th, will likely stick in his memory as a mere detail in the expanse of his great journey. The fantastic thing is that when you plant a seed of love, support, and appreciation in someone, that seed grows. Reading Alex’s story planted that seed in me and my hopes are that my package will help the seed that already exists in Alex’s heart to grow and flourish with beautifully tinted flowers and the delicious fruits of his labor.