Bryn Cortez - Grade 9, Oakwood High School
Kindness Breaks the Barrier
Not long ago, I was a young girl enshrouded by a thick layer of ignorance which had blurred and distorted my surroundings in my mind. Yet, it only took a few moments of new experience to wipe away the barrier that had for so long stood between me and my true happiness; and it was achieved through small sacrifices that contributed to the well being of another. In other words: I gave, and I gained.
2012 -- my fourth grade year; the year I was determined to climb the social ladder. Everything was going according to plan until my parents announced that we would be taking a trip to Chicago for Christmas.
Chicago, being one of the more downtrodden cities, was littered with homeless men and women. Winter is harsh and piercing. Tugging air in and out of your lungs stings your throat with cold. When we walked by a few poor individuals, I was at first repulsed and frightened: I couldn’t understand, therefore I wouldn’t. Thankfully, my parents do not condone closed-mindedness. My mother made the decision to abruptly stop the shivering popsicle parade she led at the nearest convenience store. My brothers and I were all oblivious to what was happening, and only thankful to be out of the wind’s deadly path. The adults conversed for a moment before hurrying all of us down the narrow aisles. I tried comprehend what we could possibly need with all that they purchased: stockings --the kind placed above fireplaces-- self-care items, fruits, winter clothing, and sweets. We already had all of that stuff at home. Despite my protests for an explanation, my father hailed a taxi and directed the us straight back to the hotel.
“Kids,” he started, “you know that there are many people who are less fortunate than ourselves, right? We have to share our blessings with others who haven’t been gifted any of their own. Today, we are going to assemble and distribute Christmas stockings for the homeless men and women of Chicago.”
And thus, it began. My interest in and infatuation for giving was sparked then: as we walked down each street handing stockings to the huddled piles of arms and blankets. The smiles I saw that day were the most genuine and grateful smiles I have ever seen in my life to this day; the embraces -- the warmest and most heartfelt; and the words -- ah, the words! Each “bless your soul” was the warmest of comforts and the greatest of rewards. I saw my ignorance fizzle away with the addition of understanding and love.
Some people never dissolve their bubbles of intolerance. The longer you go without new ideas and experiences, the more impenetrable the wall grows. That is why I am urging you, now, to help someone; to understand them! Listen to your grandmother’s stories! Talk to the new kid at school! I promise that your mind will clear; the barrier will fall. To help yourself, you must help others.