I’m just like everybody else.
An odd way to introduce a piece about my life, and what makes me unique, no? But it’s very much true; I didn’t have an answer when I was six and people asked why I was raising money for stables instead of candy, and nothing is different now. After all, it’s not like I was born with magical powers, I just do my best to help. Everyone has that power, so what is it about me, my life, that has made me do things that seem so different?
Maybe it was my awesome family? Personal experiences? Or perhaps it was sparked by something as small as an act of kindness, showing me the power each and every one of us hold. I can’t tell you what it was, as I don’t know myself, but hopefully this piece will give you a bit of insight towards my life.
Memory is a fickle thing, no? It can deceive us, send us spiraling in circles, or it can reveal what is most important. I would like to think that it more often does the latter for me, as I think back to one of my earliest memories now.
I’m standing in the kitchen, bouncing about, and eating a DunkAroo with my brother – Not a very insightful memory. However, I’d like to think that it shows I had my priorities straight even at that age: chocolate and family. These two thing are my true strengths, family to support me no matter how crazy things get, and chocolate for when it’s my family that’s making things crazy.
This support system has made me strong, made it possible to achieve my goals, do my fundraisers, and survive things that I don’t know I would be able to otherwise. The first real trial against my iron clad support system of family and chocolate occurred when I was only 5 years old. I got rather sick and went through a few doctors before I was diagnosed; they were considering a few dreary possibilities ranging all the way from lupus to Flesh Eating Disease. Thankfully, I was diagnosed rather quickly with Henoch–Schönlein purpura, an unpleasant but wonderfully nonfatal and temporary autoimmune disease.
However, I was still briefly confined to a wheelchair where I learned several tough lessons that I would like to think influence who I am today. First and foremost, I truly grasped just how lucky I was for the first time. You see, I had begun to wonder about people who didn’t have family that’d push their chair around for them when they were tired, didn’t have the knowledge that one day they’d walk without pain again. And I realized that just feeling bad for the people who hadn’t been as lucky didn’t help, it just hurt. My biggest memory from that time is when I was shopping with my mom, and a woman bumped into us and saw me. She couldn’t speak for almost a full minute, just looked at me with desolate eyes. I wanted to gnash my teeth, yell at her, ‘Why are you looking at me like I’m less? Like I’m in a zoo?’ It was the first time I remember feeling such strong anger, and I swore to myself then that I would never look at someone with what I’d later identify as pity, never assume to know a person’s life from a flash judgment. There were more lessons I learned from that time, but I would like to think that these are the ones that I take with me every day: We are blessed, Never pity, Never judge.
It sounds like the piece should end here, like I should end off with all the fancy morals. But that wouldn’t be right; lessons don’t end once you’ve learned them, and you never stop learning lessons. I can’t write down all the lessons I’ve learned, for there is only so much space on a page, and some lessons are not meant to be written. But I can share one of the most powerful lessons to be learned… kindness.
It is just a word, but that word can change lives – it certainly changed mine. My mother always says that it takes a hundred positives to balance a negative. My life, all of our lives, are made of the small kindnesses, whether or not we acknowledge them. How many are given to you each day? How many doors are held open? How many smiles are shared? Small kindnesses build us, deliver us to the next day. What would you have become without these hundreds of kindnesses?
Now think of the big ones, the ones you never saw coming. They are what I stand on when I try to help, or when I’m not feeling too tall myself. To be big, they don’t have to cost money, or pride, sometimes they can be the smallest things that we wouldn’t think twice about giving.
These are the memories, the acts that make my life: My friends sneaking into school early to decorate my locker for my birthday. A girl I didn’t know giving me a hug because I ‘looked like I needed one’. The whole class giving up a bit of their lunch for me when I forgot mine. Little acts. They cost nothing, but they are the building blocks of our lives.
And so I part this piece with a challenge; think what acts of kindness make up your day, your life. Remember them when you are down, and above all else, give others what they need to build their lives with kindness.