The Note

One choice. One book. One sentence. That’s all it took for me to decide what I wanted to do with my life. Impossible? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

It was a flawless autumn day, the type of day when the bright sun and the baby blue sky fill you with a certain unexplainable nostalgia. The birds sang fearlessly, like the innocent laugher of young children playing on a summer night. The scene was deceptive. It looked pleasant, but the air had a definite briskness to it, making a jacket an unfortunate necessity. I, regrettably, was inside, at my local library, browsing the multitude of stacks for the “perfect” book. It was a task that, after a certain amount of time, became quite overwhelming, due to the great number of titles that lined the shelves. Eventually, though, I picked. I wish I could recall which book I selected from the myriad, and what it was that drew me to it, perhaps an attractive cover or an intriguing title.

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Whatever it was, I pulled it out and started to walk towards the librarian’s desk to check out. As I did, a small, folded piece of paper fell out of the book and fluttered to the ground. I reached down and picked it up, figuring it was just a bit of aimless doodling and began to walk towards the trash can. However, after a few steps, curiosity got the better of me, and I gave into my desire to unfold it and see what it was. There, scrawled in an untidy hand and blue pen were these words: “I may not make a million dollars but I will make a million smiles.” Those words broke my determined stride, and I stopped and inspected the scrap. Then I shrugged, shoved it into my jeans pocket and resumed my original expedition to the librarian’s desk.

When I got home that evening, I opened the book and began to read, only to find my thoughts repeatedly returning to the piece of paper in my pocket. I pulled it out again and examined it, thinking to myself, “What kind of person leaves a note like this in a library book?” My mind churned through the possibilities. Maybe it had been a bookmark? But then, why not use a tissue, or something simple? Why this piece of paper? After a few minutes of intense contemplation I came to the conclusion that whoever put the scrap there wanted someone else to find it and take the words to heart. I then resumed my reading, no longer perplexed, but encouraged that someone would be motivated to do such a thing.

I kept that paper, and those words written on my heart. As I think of that creased scrap, sitting even now on top of my dresser in my bedroom, I realize how much of an impact that paper had on me, and how my reaction to those fourteen little words caught me off guard. It touched me deeply and resulted in a more thorough comprehension of myself and who I want to be.

I didn’t change in a huge way. If you asked my family and friends, they would probably say that I’ve always been a genuinely kind, caring person, and I didn’t undergo any drastic metamorphosis. However, life is a series of choices, and making the right ones is sometimes easier said than done. I might not feel like helping my friend study for an important French test or getting up early on Saturday mornings to go and volunteer at St. John’s Soup Kitchen, but those fourteen little words reinforced my determination to do the right thing, even when it’s the last thing I feel like doing. And when my friend gets an A on that test, or I see a smile on the face of someone who might have gone hungry that day without the assistance of the soup kitchen, I know that it’s worth it. Life challenges us to be benevolent and emancipate ourselves from apathy, and I will face this challenge wholeheartedly.

Although it’s sometimes difficult to remain motivated to do good in a world that at times seems as though it’s just brimming with people with no morals or no compassion, I do it anyway. I have the privilege of knowing many spectacular people, who have touched me greatly, unknowingly encouraging me to be the best person I can be and reach my full potential. Just like that paper, I get creased and crumbled, but I will never give up, and I will never stop being true to myself. That piece of paper changed my life in an irrevocable way. One choice. One book. One sentence.

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