"This I Believe" Contest - 2010 Winners
Lanphier High School
"Every Smile Changed a Life"
I used to believe that humanity was lost, that the basic idea of helping others had been forgotten as society became increasingly desensitized. It's an easy belief to hold with news agencies reporting scams, death and destruction with more frequency. However, recent events have
changed what I believe. I've seen the under-covered good Samaritans, and I've realized something new. I believe that people have a natural desire to help others, a natural altruism buried beneath.
When my newspaper teacher asked our class to sign up for bell ringing last year, I was leery of the idea. I'd never done something so active in helping others. I had once picked up cans for the food pantry and worked on various service projects. Being physical labor, all it took was my
sweat and energy. But I didn't want to stand outside a store with a bell and apron for an hour, with a lame smile and making pretentious remarks like "Happy Holidays," every time someone looked at me. I wanted to do something real.
When the day came, and I arrived at the dreaded place, circumstances were that I was forced to ring alone. Soon after taking my post, an older
gentleman walked up to me on his way out.
"Happy Holidays," I told the man. He reached down, sliding a dollar into the bin.
"Merry Christmas," he smiled.
I can't explain it. I wish I could describe the feelings that spread through me at that moment. One second I was flustered, fidgeting, worrying about my tardiness; the next I was... euphoric, is that the right word? I felt like I'd accomplished something. Who slept better at night when I spread mulch in a park? Who received a hot cup of soup because I shoveled a sidewalk? Who stretched their arms into a new
coat because I planted daylilies? No one. But here? Every clang of the bell had a purpose, every smile changed a life. Here I was directly connected to happiness. And all I had to do was suffer cold for the space of an hour.
Recently, a series of vicious earthquakes shook the island of Haiti with horrible results. But that's not the whole story. Like bell ringers on a world scale, China had a jet set down the next day full of supplies. America and other nations sent military units and ships to help direct cleaning efforts and lead relief. This disaster has proven that the world is not full of heartless people, but of Good Samaritans. I've realized that the acts of violence and selfishness portrayed in the news are not the rule, they are the exception. Thousands of unsung
heroes do their duty every day to help others, doing things like ringing bells.
Bad things happen, but there is a remedy that resides in everyone. All the world asks is a little work and determination. I believe that humanity has the ability to do good unto others, as well as the desire to do so.