Hanel is a junior marketing and public relations double major and can be reached at email@example.com.
Do we take everything for granted? The simple freedom that we possess that most of the world has yet to experience? There’s typically a distinct disconnect between the human race and particular humanitarianism. I used to be one of those people. A humanitarian ideology seems to be lacking the activism spark.
Over the summer, I was strolling along Gray’s Lake with my friend and colleague. The night was growing rather late, around 11 p.m., and peaceful. I was wearing a Kappa Kappa Gamma hoodie that a good friend had given to me, as the temperature was chilly for a summer evening. It wasn’t until we were walking along one of the bridges that I realized I was talking to myself and she remained unmoved. I turned to see what grasped her attention and her jaw dropped as she gazed into the sky. This girl is from Chicago and never had the opportunity to see fireworks before. The question then dawned on me. How much do I personally take for granted? Sure, I appreciated the fireworks, but to have the opportunity to witness somebody’s eyes light up over something so small is truly something reserved for movies.
After the fireworks ended, we continued to walk along the lake. My friend and I were then stopped by a girl and her mother, who were excited to have seen KKG gear. Turns out, this girl is a Kappa down at the University of Missouri. After speaking with them for a while, I could see the joy these individuals got out of the bonds they had to this organization. Her mom asked me where I got my hoodie, as she had been searching for one with no avail. I told her that it was from a friend. We soon finished our random conversation and continued our separate ways. The entire time, I kept thinking: to be able to bring a smile to somebody’s face is truly what I live for. I then knew what I had to do. While I thought my motion would stand as insignificant, and with the thought that they would think I am a total nut-case, I called “Wait!” and ran towards them. When we finally reached each other again, I tugged on the sweatshirt and said, “If you want it, it’s yours.”
At this point, I was pondering what they must have been thinking. A crazy boy runs towards them and tries to give his clothes away? Instead, their eyes lit up and the two were overwhelmed with excitement.
“Are you serious?” the mother said.
I couldn’t help but smile and hand over the hoodie. They requested my information at the very least and we are now friends on Facebook. I knew I would get a smile, yet I was not even aware of the impact that little things such as giving somebody a piece of clothing could do. Later, the girl went home and wrote a note about her experience:
“Just when I thought the world was on my shoulders, I found relief in a stranger. Tonight I have learned what it means to pay it forward and if I could hand out Owl Salutes, this young man would definitely receive one. While at Gray’s with my mother I noticed a boy wearing a Kappa sweatshirt walking with another girl who was sporting her Kappa keys around her neck. The boy must have noticed how excited I was to see another Kappa because he literally took off his sweatshirt and handed it to me. What a wonderful person, so truly inspiring. Tonight I will go to sleep knowing that the world isn’t such a horrible place and I live among wonderful people. I couldn’t be more humbled. I have the most sincere gratitude for those two. I am a key, a fleur de lis and I will forever be a KKG.”
“I still can’t believe it! This definitely made our night! Who would think someone would literally give the shirt off his back to you! There are great people out there! All I can say is PAY IT FORWARD! Our family will!” – Girl’s Mother
Somewhere, it got lost in my ideology (as I am sure that I am not the only one of whomever may read this) that one voice, one notion, one act can change the course of history. A few months ago, my good friend Jody Whitmore sent me a postcard that simply said, “Got Privilege?” It was for a white privilege conference that occurred earlier in the year. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend; however, I feel that I gained a significant source of insight just by reading those words. This postcard now has a home in my cubicle at work as a constant reminder to everything I have. I have a top-notch education, a supportive family and everything else that a guy could want. Now what to do for those who don’t see it all? What about those who do not have access to all that I have?
I remember sitting in my sociology class and reading about the effects that a single element of one’s daily life could change the behavior of the rest of their environment. I also remember reading a book in one of my law, politics and society courses about “the human condition” and how all realms of one’s life center around each other. While we study and live by the basic principles of humanitarianism, I still see a huge disconnection. People do not like the way things are yet sit around just waiting for time to pass and for the world to change alone. The world is lucky to have individuals such as Mike Gronstal, Harvey Milk, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln or even Tank Man. These individuals found something worth fighting for. I wish to see humanity take on some of its modern challenges with just as much integrity as those before them.
While what I have done may be small, it reminded me that all it takes is one small spark to ignite the raging fires. I am happy to inspire more than just a tweet or some subpar acknowledgment of good deed. After all, as stated best:
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller
I live my life opposite that of which the world has continuously tried to teach me. While my dad has been drilling into my head “don’t talk to strangers” since I was little, I could not advise more to the rest of the world to break down those barriers and open up to new people. Expand upon thy horizons and grow. At least that is the faith to which I still hold true.
Daring adventure? Or nothing? Your choice.