Discovering Compassion

At a young age and perhaps at a time when I was most impressionable, I was flipping through the channels one day after school when I stumbled across a commercial that changed my life. This commercial was a viewing glass into another world which up until that day, I did not know existed. From that day on it became a routine. Every day after school at 4, I learned about the horrors of famine, drought, sickness, suffering and death from the comfort of my living room. At first I was deeply saddened by the images of suffering children with bellies swollen from disease and malnourishment. Then came confusion, and even anger. How could the people in charge of the world let this happen? I showered my parents with questions as to why something this horrific had taken place. The commercial, which depicted young infants scantly clothed and covered in dirt and flies, shattered my understanding of a universally good world.

I had heard of a distant land called Africa, but now the name bore a new meaning in my mind: a barren, hopeless wasteland where children starving to death was a regular phenomenon. The seed that was planted from watching these commercials eventually grew into a large part of my character.
The raw emotion that surged in me every time I watched a Feed the Children commercial compelled me to take action. For five weeks, I saved my allowance, awarded to me in return for my duty of emptying the trash cans in my house and taking the trash bins down to the curb every Wednesday night. Inspired purely by a desire to help the kids on the Feed the Children commercial, I came up with 25 dollars and sent it to Feed the Children. I then envisioned the money I had earned, buying rice or clean water for a nameless child, whether that was a realistic vision or not. The feeling that I was making a difference, no matter how miniscule, was one that I wanted to become accustomed to. It was the same satisfaction derived from helping people that has motivated me to attend church-based volunteer work camps for the past three summers. These sleep away camps, which brought me to very poor neighborhoods, children’s homes and other nonprofit organizations, have been an outlet for my compassion.
Over the years, this compassion for people has evolved into a sense of duty to serve others. This sense of obligation to serve and even lead, drove me to run for the office of Senior Class President. As the president of my senior class, my job would have little value if I did not feel that I was giving a part of myself back to the world which has been so generous to me.
Now at 17 years old, as I reflect on the day when I came across Feed the Children on channel 54, I realize the importance of having my naive sense of the world shattered. By experiencing the sadness, wonder and anger, I was able to discover my compassion. In the very same way that a commercial transformed an eleven year old boy for the better, I look forward to being transformed again in January 2012, when my family and I travel to Ghana, Africa to do volunteer work at an orphanage. I hope that I am devastated. I hope that my understanding of the world is destroyed and in its ashes a new one is born so that I can come one step closer to discovering the limits of human compassion, like I did six years ago.

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