Where to begin. I was born in Boston on July 6, 1995 and knew I was destined for public service… No. I first knew that I wanted to pursue public service when my mother instituted our family tradition of serving the hungry on Thanksgiving. As much as I hate to admit it I was not thrilled by this new activity. “Isn’t Thanksgiving a day for enjoying food and planning my Christmas List?” I wondered to myself. At ten years old I did not yet understand how lucky I was. I knew that I loved my family; I knew that I enjoyed sports and hanging out with friends; I knew that school was important, but my ten year old self did not know how lucky I was to have all these opportunities afforded to me. The greatest suffering that I could comprehend in my life was skinning my knee or losing power in my house. When we arrived at one of Boston’s local food shelters I saw what suffering truly could look like. Many people were emaciated, all looked sickly, and I was stunned. Previously I had been unable to visualize what it was like to have virtually nothing, and the realization of how spoiled I was soon kicked in.
The most shocking thing about my time at the shelter, more so than even the first glimpse, was interacting with the people who came there for a Thanksgiving meal. These people, these poor, bedraggled people, were so grateful for their meals. Looking into their eyes it was visible how much this small kindness meant to them, and that blew me away. I, who was upset when even the slightest wrong was done to me; I, who would throw tantrums if I didn’t get my way; I, who now realize that in lives filled with nothing the smallest good deed is a gift that means the world. Giving back at the shelter changed me, and it made me want to pursue public service even more in order to help people feel that gift.
I will not pretend to always be a good soul who is conscious of how everyone else feels. I am young, I am selfish, I am arrogant, and I am also human. To err is human, and err I have, but with these errors comes knowledge. Knowledge of how my reactions affect others, for good and for bad. It is hard to say whether we learn more when we hurt someone or when we help, but there is one thing I know: whether hurting or helping I can always use the experience to learn and to grow. We learn from our mistakes, however, we also learn from our successes. From that day in the Food Shelter I learned that I wanted to pursue public service and play my part to help those that were less fortunate.
“One must act as if one can make a difference.” The words of John William Ward ring true as I sit here typing. Mr. Ward’s words are carefully chosen in this simple, wise advice. Everyone can make a difference, but not everyone can leave their mark on the world. This is a fact that to some is heartbreaking, but to me it means this: While one may not be able to make a difference on the world, one can always make a difference. Each and every day we make a difference in someone’s life. Even if that difference seems obsolete it is a difference nonetheless. In a thousand years it is unlikely that anyone will remember me. However, this should not stop me from helping others. Whether one tries in order to leave their mark, to balance their karmic scale in the eyes of the omnipotent, to simply do good because it is right, or for some other reason, the point is the same. Do good. Act as if you can make a difference and you will. It may not be remembered by all but if you try to help others it will surely be remembered by one. And that is enough.