Monday, January 24, 2011


Life offers us lots of opportunities to be selfless, don’t you think? All those tip jars at coffee shops that collect spare change to donate to animal shelters or children’s hospitals are just screaming at us to be as unselfish as possible. As much as I love cute puppies or needy children as the next person, sometimes I feel like these small acts of kindness only demonstrate a convenient opportunity to be selfless, something so routine that we might not recognize the beauty in what we’re doing altogether. For a very long time I was an everyday tipper in the tip jar of life until I interacted with a Caring Coin-dropper that taught me to take a step back and appreciate every penny I give.


What a day! I thought as I walked into my house after school one day. It’s only Tuesday and I’ve got the exam of my lifetime tomorrow, two major projects due Thursday, and enough homework to last me into next year. As I collapsed on my bed, I marveled at how quickly an ordinary week at school could turn into a festival of insanity. I was a little grumpy after a pretty busy school day, but I knew all I needed was a snack and an episode of The Office and I would be good to go. All I need is a PB&J sandwich and a little and I’ll be fine.

Once my twenty minutes of heaven were over, I knew I had to buckle down and get to work. Unfortunately, my plans to finish all my work were drastically changed thanks to my math homework. When my teacher assigned ten problems, she forgot to mention that each problem was going to take an hour to do! I thought. Thankfully, a welcome text message interrupted my battle with my homework (one which, unfortunately, I was losing.) The message was from my CC, and it read, “Hey, what were the pages we needed to study tonight?”

Grateful for any distraction, I quickly replied with the information. “Do you want to Skype study for it later on?J” I asked. I really, really, REALLY need help studying for this exam and I know CC is pretty comfortable with that subject, I thought.

I was relieved after receiving a, “Yeah, sure!” text response. Comforted by the knowledge that my CC was going to help me later that evening, I armed myself with a sharpened pencil and resumed my battle with those unbeatable math formulas.


FINALLY DONE! I thought. Math, though a good fighter, ultimately lost to my iron will (and calculatorJ), and those projects never stood a chance! My triumphant attitude faded when I realized how much time I spent during my valiant battle. I comforted myself by thinking, well, at least I’ve still got my CC’s help for the test tomorrow!

I signed on my Skype account and waited for CC to sign on as well. As though perfectly timed, my CC called me just as I had gotten out my study materials.

“I’m so glad you offered to help me!” I told CC. “I know with your help I’ll be all set for tomorrow.”

My CC looked pretty exhausted, but smiled and said, “No problem. I’m glad I could help. By the way, I like your sunglasses.”

Sunglasses? Reaching up to my head, I realized my tortoiseshell sunglasses had been perched up there all day long. “Thanks!” I said. “Hopefully you can help me use them to discover the key to understanding everything that is going to be on the test tomorrow!”

Whether or not my sunglasses actually helped me, I’ll never know, but I was certainly glad I had my CC to explain to me all the concepts I didn’t know. My CC is a lifesaver! I thought.

In the middle of our study session, I realized CC was yawning up a storm. “Hey, why are you so tired?” I asked.

CC said, “I’m not tired, don’t worry about it. Let’s just keep going.”

“Okay then,” I responded, a little suspicious of CC’s comment. My yawn radar was up and ready to detect any more exhaustion.

Once CC fell asleep during one of my study questions, I knew it was definitely time for bed. Poor CC, I thought. “Hey, sleepyhead!” I said to CC. “I think you’ve done enough studying tonight. Clearly you need some sleep right now. I’m just sorry you didn’t have enough time to prepare for the exam tomorrow.”

My CC sleepily grinned at me and said, “Oh, don’t worry about it. I prepared for the exam a few hours ago. I just hope I was able to answer your questions. Anyway, I’ll see you tomorrow, Abi!”

After turning off my computer, I realized my CC chose to help me instead of doing something else (like, I don’t know, SLEEPING?). My CC knew how badly I needed some guidance and put my needs in front of his/her own. Although stuck with an hour more of my own studying after that conversation, I was happy to know that there was someone in the world who was willing to put some hard earned money, not just extra change from a morning coffee, into the tip jar of my success.

Lesson Learned: Selflessness is putting the needs of others above your own. While helping others in any way will always be appreciated, it means so much more to you and whoever you are helping if you make the choice to help others instead of doing so out of convenience. Take it from a convert from the coin-dropping style of community service, fishing a few more dollars out of your pocket to supplement the thirty five cents you got back in change will make some cute puppies or needy children very happyJ.

“A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.” Albert Einstein

Monday, January 10, 2011


Although I’m pretty sure each blog I write shows that I find inspiration in unusual places, I think the Harry Potter books have opened my scope of inspiring sources to a new “unusual”. The one event that has inspired me the most in the series was when Dumbledore awarded Neville Longbottom ten points for Gryffindor in the 1st book. Neville received the points because he showed courage not by confronting his enemies but by standing up to his friends when he believed they were doing something wrong. His actions introduced me to the idea of integrity, but I never completely understood it until my Brave Bystander showed me how much courage it really takes to have integrity.


“Ok, here we go!” My teacher said. “Pencils out, clear your desks, it’s test time!”

Test time, how wonderful, I thought sarcastically. Maybe after test time we can write a paper too!

I may have been a little grouchy about the test that day, but I knew I had no reason to complain about anything. I was not dealing with ridiculous workloads or issues with family or friends. My only concern at that moment was doing well on my test. Exchanging my pink sunglasses with racecar flag print for my pencil, I heard my teacher tell us to take our time on the test because there were a few trick questions. I felt my stomach sink as I thought, Trick questions? Really, you HAD to tell us that? Once I received my test, I tried to clear my mind of those uneasy thoughts and got to work.

Hmmm, this one’s a little tricky but I think I got it…..Yeah, that one’s “A”……on and on this commentary was going on in my head, like two sportscasters were giving me the play-by-play of my progress. Just as my hand started cramping, I heard one of the mustachioed guys in my head call a time out.

As I took a look around my classroom, I noticed every student was intently focused on the test. Nearby me I saw my Brave Bystander gripping a pencil with and staring the test down with a deeply focused gaze. Dang, I guess everyone’s probably got their own set of sportscasters in their minds right now, I thought. Nice to know I’m not the only one.

Once my hand had stopped throbbing, I went back to completing my test. These questions aren’t TOO horrible. I wonder what my teacher meant by trick questions???

Right at that moment I heard a collective “Ugh!” from my class. As I turned to the final page of my exam, I realized that my teacher had made all the trick questions about topics we had barely discussed. Internally moaning myself, I thought, Great, I read about this stuff a month ago! What am I supposed to do???

I hunkered down and tried to “process-of-elimination” my answers to the last five questions. Around me I heard kids in my class asking the teacher for help, but I tried to tune them out. I was able to answer four of the last five questions, but the last trick question had me wavering between two answers. It could be this one right? But I don’t remember reading about this!!! Still, this one makes more sense….But what about the other one? AHHH, What is happening here?

I could tell this was the question that was stumping everyone in my class. I heard people asking my teacher about how to understand the question, if this answer or that answer made more sense, any and every question available. I can’t think!!!! Which answer is it?? Which answer…. And then, as if someone turned on the light bulb in my head, I remembered the answer. My teacher went over an example of this in lecture! I KNOW WHICH ANSWER IT IS!!!

I put down my answer choice, turned in my test, and before I knew it, class was over. And it’s a slam dunk for Mariam! I heard the sportscasters say in my head.

As I was leaving my class that day, I noticed my Brave Bystander fiddling with some papers on the desk. “Hey, BB, what did you think of that test? Crazy, wasn’t it?” I asked.

“Yeah, I guess so….” BB responded. How unusual, I thought. BB usually always has something funny to say. “Is everything ok?” I asked.

After a few moments of deliberation, BB asked me, “Abi, did you change the answers on your test to what people said in class?”

What??? I thought. Oh no, BB thinks I cheated on this test! “No, of course I didn’t do that BB! I was wavering on the last question until I remembered our teacher lecturing on one of the answer choices.” Ouch, I thought. Why would BB say something like that?

BB said, “Oh, okay. I just thought that you changed your answers because everyone in our class was leaning toward one of them.” As BB left the classroom, BB waved at me and gave me a little smile.

After that event, I felt a bit offended by BB. I couldn’t understand why BB would have confronted me like that. Luckily now, a little while later, I realize BB was trying to make sure I wasn’t doing anything to debase my own character. As uncomfortable as it made BB, s/he still did what s/he had to do to protect and uplift me. I’d say it was an action worthy of one hundred Gryffindor points J.

Lesson Learned: Demonstrating integrity can be very difficult at times, but it truly is what makes someone a good person. Sure, it may be hard to tell your friends, your family members, even your parents when they are doing something wrong or offensive, but you have to let them know that you are only trying to help them make better choices. It will take time, but building integrity in your character is the most important step to being a good person J.

“Integrity is doing the right thing, even if nobody is watching.” Jim Stovall