At the start of high school, I was determined to rip my middle school from the reputation of being the quiet, nerdy girl. I longed to be more than an academically sufficient student with only books and homework to occupy my free time. In my quest of breaking out of my comfort zone, I joined clubs ranging from academic to culture to service organizations. But nothing was as life-changing as when I joined Key Club. Key Club is a service organization that not only promotes community service but also gives high school students an opportunity to gain leadership and character.
Having the opportunity to be both a member and an officer in Key Club, I was able to not only participate but organize and lead in service projects. As President I not only have the power to impact my life and the lives of the unfortunate, but also the lives of fellow members. I strive every week to find volunteer opportunities for my members to be involved ranging from helping at our local Food Bank, walking 6 miles for pre-mature babies, to planting trees. But the most memorable service project that was most sentimental to my heart was the Ronald McDonald House project.
Ronald McDonald House is a place that provides a home conveniently near a hospital away from home for families of seriously ill children receiving treatment at nearby hospitals. As a volunteer, my task was to sanitize every single room in the house for the inhabitants and patients. At first I wished that when I came into a room it would be empty so that I wouldn’t have to face the awkwardness of vacuuming while the occupant was in there. I felt lucky for the first four rooms, but then came the fifth room. When I knocked on the door, an unexpected “quién está allí?” replied. At the time I was confused about what I should do and what to reply; especially not speaking Spanish. “Room service” was all I could think of. As the door opened, a small Mexican woman’s face appeared. I pointed to my buckets of cleaning supplies and smiled hoping that she would understand that I wanted to clean her room. And I couldn’t have been happier when she smiled and answered “please come in.”
As I put the buckets down, I glanced over to the bed and stop. On the bed was a small girl and I could tell by her expression and her grunting noises that she was straining to look over at me. The woman ran over to the bedside and sat her up. The little girl gave me an awkward face and waved. I smiled and started my cleaning. Throughout my cleaning, I couldn’t help but wonder about the girl—was she making faces at me or was that normally her face, was she sick?—but I thought it would be rude to ask, so I kept quiet with my thoughts. As I was wiping the windows, a toy hit me from the back. I turned around and I saw the girl gleaming. The woman contradicted her smile with a sympathetic “sorry”. I gave her a polite smile and returned back to my cleaning but as soon as I did, the girl started screaming and crying. I was scared. Her mom frantically tried to calm her down but nothing worked. The woman looked over at me and through her eyes I could tell that she wanted me to come over. I walked cautiously over, afraid that I might trigger another bout of crying. As I sat down on the bed the girl calmed her screams. She looked at me and smiled. She reached and I grab on to her soft, warm hands. We sat like that for about thirty minutes until the girl fell asleep. As her mom tucked her in, she explained to me that Mia had a mild case of schizophrenia and was recovering from a stroke that had caused paralysis on the left side of her body. That would explain her awkward face since she could only move the right side of her face and all she was trying to do was get my attention. My heart was tied in knots and I couldn’t hold back the tears. Mia was so young and she had to face an obstacle so enduring and devastating. As I gazed at her, I saw such bravery, I felt such sympathy. I wanted so badly to help her, to rid her of her pain. I felt horrible for not understanding before, for being scared. The mother looked at my teary face and told me not to worry. She said that she have a brave daughter and have confidence that she’ll recover soon. I wanted more than anything to believe in her words.
If there is anything I have learned through Key Club and its services, it is that an action’s value does not depend on the size of its issue; instead, it is to be valued on the size of its meaning. You do not need to have discovered a cure for cancer or AIDS to make a difference. As long as one have brought her best effort out to do something for others and she have done it with the best intention and an unselfish thought, her actions have made a huge difference already. Whether it is volunteering at a local homeless shelter or giving a neighbor a good-morning smile, one’s compassion and kindness have set you off from many people who have lost the traits in today's fast-paced world.
My academic success is very important to me, but it is also important to me to be an active and purposeful member of my community. My grades have slipped, but I had realized that other things were also important in life. Volunteering showed me that though life is not perfect, hope can still be achieved through humanitarian acts. It takes so little to affect another’s life and it gives so much back. Emily Dickinson once wrote:
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching…
I shall not live in vain.
My academic success is very important to me, but it is also important to me to be an active and purposeful member of my community. Through volunteering I know that my life will not be lived in vain. My dream is to become a pediatrician. Although the path to becoming a pediatrician is long and strenuous, I know that I am capable of overcoming any obstacles for Mia has taught me to use them as my motivation to succeed.