Sunday, December 24, 2017

RK: Christmas is a wonderful time of year, but to some it can also be one of the loneliest.

AMH2020 student

“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, author of that quote, is known for her words of wisdom.  She is a Pulitzer Prize nominated poet as well as author, speaker and a civil rights activist to name a few of her accomplishments.  I believe that over time you forget things that are said or done to you, but the feelings you have, whether good or bad, stay with you.
There are certain feelings that remind me of childhood.  The bedtime rituals of a story, a snuggle and getting tucked into the bed.  The feeling of the clean sheets and the cozy blanket that your parents wrap around you.  I don’t remember the words to my favorite books or the stories my dad would make up about sailing the seas, but I do remember the feeling when I was being put to bed.  I was safe and secure and my parents were right down the hall if I had a bad dream or just needed the extra hug.  Bedtime is a time of day, an action, a place in your home, but most importantly it is a feeling you get of security.
The Veterans Village holiday party gift list included a blanket, sheets and gift cards to name a few.  New sheets and a cozy blanket bring me right back to my childhood room and that sense of security.  I am hoping that one of the guests at the party picks these items and it helps them to remember their own childhood rituals of being tucked into bed.  My father uses the word cozy a lot.  We always tease him about it as he wants to be sure everyone is cozy all the time.  We have so many throw blankets in our home that it seems rather excessive.  I also came to college with several so that the cozy feeling was just an arm reach away.  I am hoping the blanket brings warmth and a deeper feeling of comfort to one of the deserving vets.
My community service commitment began in high school with a program called Caps of Love.  In my high school we had many disabled kids and one boy needed a very specialized wheel chair that would be custom made for him.  The school contacted Caps of Love which is a charity organization that collects plastic bottle caps and receives $.05 per cap from Waste Management to buy wheelchairs for people under 21.   A speaker from the charity indicated she was looking for students to get involved.  I noticed that my neighborhood had bottle caps every week that were put out in the recycle boxes and no one realized how important they could be to this one boy.  I enlisted the help of neighborhood kids so everyone took turns collecting, sorting, washing and storing the caps before turning them in to Caps of Love.  The project became so well known in our neighborhood that neighbors started leaving me bags of their caps at the door.  I managed this program for two years before another student in my block became the manager.  The project that started out as 20 caps a week turned into over 500 caps that were used to contribute to his chair.  The day this boy got his custom wheel chair delivered to the school, his face was beaming and his mom was crying.  I felt so good knowing that I contributed to this effort.  This proved that one person can make a difference but the effort of many brings it to a larger scale. 
I know what it feels like to be overwhelmed or feel alone in a crowd. In Junior year of high school, I fell off a cliff.  Falling off a cliff is an expression mental health professionals and guidance counselors use when a student experiences a drastic decline in grades or socialization.  As dramatic as that sounds, it was even harder to be the one falling.
Most people are quick to judge a book by its cover.  Ever since I have been diagnosed with ADD, I am no longer one of those people.  I have learned that every individual has their own back story and that each person’s history has shaped them.  I am more empathetic now and realize that everyone’s story is worth knowing.   With all the tragic stories in the daily news, I know that people have burdens that are bigger than Attention Deficit Disorder or receiving a bad grade during a semester. Now if I see someone fall off a cliff, I may be the one to catch them. 
 If perfection is overrated, then let me be the first to say I live in an imperfect world.  No one wants to admit their weaknesses but I have had to embrace mine.  My grades are not perfect but there is a sense of perfection gained from self-awareness.  I did not think my diagnosis of ADD would lead to personal growth, but that is one of the positives I have discovered.    My passion has always been to champion the underdog and to stand up for the kids who are introverts or chosen last for the team.  I want to channel my learnings from this condition and pursue a legal career that speaks for the ones with the smallest voices.  Children and the disabled need an advocate who can help them through obstacles. 

Christmas is a wonderful time of year, but to some it can also be one of the loneliest.  Depression and anxiety can add to the holiday chaos and what should be fun is often dreaded by those that suffer from these disorders.  If one person can make a connection or reach out when you see someone stumble, the true spirit of Christmas will shine though.  Although I will not be in town for the Veterans Holiday Party, I feel good that the gifts will make someone feel special that day.  My dad will be happy someone gets a cozy blanket and I hope sleeping in new sheets reminds them of happy memories of their own childhood tuck-ins.