“We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.” Ellen DeGeneres said that quote and it is the motto on how she lives her life. She brings joy and laughter to people with her humor and appreciates people and the things that make them unique. She also finds people from all over the country that do random acts of kindness and then rewards them so they can do even more wonderful things for others. In 2016, Ellen DeGeneres was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest honor a civilian can win. The award recognizes those for extraordinary contributions to world peace or other national interests. She ends her Ellen Show with a simple phrase of “Be kind to one another.” It seems so simple, but in reality, it is getting harder for people to remember that on a daily basis.
The nightly news has turned into highlights of the day of who is more hateful, people who are fighting, not working together, not listening and judging people based on what they look like, who they love, where they came from. A service project that allows people to come together to help others, especially around the holidays, is a perfect time to help those that need it the most. Just one small contribution by many people can add up to a big contribution for people that truly can use a hand.
My favorite holiday is Christmas. My mother always makes a big deal about it with the decorations, wrapped gifts, the cinnamon brooms that fill the house with the smells of the holidays. One of our traditions is Christmas pajamas. We would always open them on Christmas Eve so we could sleep in the new jammies and then come downstairs to see what Santa brought in the morning. It is a cozy memory and one that I know I will do for my kids.
There were many options for the service project, but when I saw the list for the Veterans Village Holiday party, I knew right away what to do. As soon as I read that they needed a pair of slippers and new pajamas, I knew that I was going to continue our tradition for a veteran. It instantly reminded me of Christmas Eve and I wanted to bring that same cozy, holiday feel to someone else. Pajamas will never be the big present for Christmas but if there was a year we did not get them, everyone would be disappointed and Christmas would not be complete. Luckily we still all get them and my dad is in his sixties.
There are so many people that just need someone to care and someone to listen. My mom always says you don’t know what someone else is going through so you should not judge. Vets groups, homeless shelters, foster kids are just examples of obvious groups that need help. But today so many people walk around with hidden illnesses like depression, PTSD, anxiety and you cannot tell by looking at them. There is no cast, no wheelchair, no loss of appendage so there is no obvious sign of illness. However, people battle these illnesses alone as there is a stigma and shame that comes with mental illness that cancer or diabetes do not. Nearly 19 million people have depression in the United States, so bringing a little joy and little laughter to someone is really a gift.
Helping others in my community started as a babysitting job but became being a big part of another family. My neighbor has a 10-year-old autistic child that I have known since birth. I am his favorite baby sitter as he trusts me and we have become very close. A child with special needs is a greater responsibility than a regular babysitting job as you never know what kind of day the child is having or what might occur. It requires extreme focus as everything is centered on him, his routine and his pace. You cannot cancel when you get a chance to go out with your friends as that would completely send him in tailspin. There are days I got frustrated but I knew that I was important to him. His trust in me is tied to the knowledge that I accept him just the way he is. I still spend time with him although I am not his babysitter anymore since I am away at school. But we are more than friends – I am part of his family.
Another neighbor that also had a son with autism had trouble keeping a babysitter. Since I was recommended to her, I started playing with her son over the summer and to her relief, I “got” him. I understood his mannerisms or “isms” as I like to say. She did not have to explain the outbursts or the lack of socialness, he was fine being himself in my care. It is so important to me to help these kids have the voice they need. In reality, a simple act of kindness like playing cars on the floor, was that mother’s lifeline last summer.
I came to college for Political Science as I want to practice law. I want to be the lawyer to fight for those that have a hard time being heard. I want to help veterans, kids and people with disabilities. Children and the disabled need an advocate who can help them through obstacles. The rights of these groups is a tough road to navigate and I wanted to be the one to help clear the way so daily life might be easier. In reality, everyone really just wants to be heard. What better person to hear someone with a disability, than someone who has walked in their shoes? I know I am not the best advocate for myself as it is not something I want people to know, but I have learned that the only way to be heard is to speak up.
People wonder if one person can make a difference. If you think that you can make the difference in one person’s life every day, then it is going to happen. Since you don’t know what someone is going through, a simple kind act of kindness can give them the strength they need to get though the day. Ellen DeGeneres makes the world better for people every day by her Dory message of “just keep swimming.”