Editor’s note: This essay was originally published in the Central Trend, the student newspaper of Forest Hills Central High School.
What college are you going to next year? How many colleges are you applying to? What did you get for Christmas? You got your license? Cool. What type of car did you get? I’ll drive. My mom pays for my gas. Do you want to go shopping this weekend? Have you gotten the iPhone7 yet? Are you getting the 7 or 7 Plus? What are you getting your mom for Christmas? Dad? Brother? Sister? Cousin? Dog? Have you taken the ACT yet? That’s a good score. Are you going to take it again to try to get it higher? What type of scholarships have you applied to?
What do all of these questions have in common? They are all privileged questions, and we all take them for granted, all the time.
Over the last month, I have been given the opportunity to donate my time to Family Promise, an organization that helps people. People just like us.
I spent my lunches walking around, asking my peers, people I did not know, for donations. Cash, checks, and change that I assumed they had, because I go to FHC and I’m accustomed to everyone having a few bucks on them to go to Foods after school to grab some sushi or a Starbucks.
I spent my afternoons counting all the money I had raised while rolling coins in sleeves of sums of money: $10.00, $5.00, $2.00, and $0.50. Along with the rest of student council, we counted $6,595, all of which was money that our school raised, coming strictly from families of FHC.
I spent an entire Sunday shopping for toys, clothes, and house appliances. Picking things out that I thought were basic items every house would need.
No, Hannah. You don’t actually need an apple slicer; a knife works just as well. No, Hannah. People probably don’t need an elaborate set of cast iron pans; you should get some basic ones first.
Then I got to drive all the gifts downtown, to the church where we would hold our Christmas Store for the families of Family Promise. We packed three cars, two of which being SUVs, to the brim. As we unloaded everything from the car, I got to see the look on the faces of the volunteers of Family Promise. Shocked, astonished, awestruck. On the car ride there, I was feeling guilty that we had been unable to raise as much money as years past; however, on the car ride home, I felt nothing but pride.
The next day was store day, which meant I got to decorate cookies and make arts and crafts with little kids while their parents walked through the store picking out gifts for their kids, things they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.
While I was hanging out with these kids, I met a little boy named Isaac. Together, we made ornaments for his Christmas tree in his new house, we decorated cookies for his older sister, we decorated masks, and colored. When it was time for Isaac to go home, his mom gathered his five siblings and thanked me for everything I had done with a smile on her face, a garbage bag full of wrapped presents under one arm, and her youngest in the other. Isaac’s sister gave me a hug and asked me how old I was. When I replied that I was 16, she looked at me in awe then she asked, “What are you doing when you graduate? Are you able to go to college?”
That’s when it hit me. This girl was like me, only a few years younger. All night, I had watched her decorate her own cookies, make jokes, and laugh, just like me. She kept an eye on her younger brothers making sure they were all content, just like me. She was in school, just like me. The only difference was the question that was so easy for her to ask was not where are you going to college next year? but are you able to? She had not been given the same opportunities I had, but other than that, she was just like me.