My first volunteer experience was court ordered after I got into trouble for running away from home. Serving food at my local soup kitchen helped me see the world in a whole new way. There were children, homeless people, and some that just did not have enough money to eat. Witnessing the harsh reality of the world made my problems seem so small in comparison. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and found my passion in life; I wanted to make a difference in the world. I wanted to help people.
Helping others got me out of my head and made life’s stressors disappear. I continued volunteering at the soup kitchen long after my obligation to the court system. From there, I branched out to other volunteer opportunities. Whenever I was stressed, or needed to get away from home, I had somewhere to go that made me feel good inside. I volunteered at my local food bank, an animal rescue center and played Chess with lonely seniors at nursing homes. Everyday after school I would walk to the Blind Commission and read the newspaper in a recording booth. Life was good!
As I got older the responsibilities of life set in. I couldn’t work for free; I needed money to get out of my house and start my own life. I started working and stopped volunteering. I lost my way and got into quite a bit of trouble for several years. It wasn’t until I met Mr. Gibson that I got my life back on track. While attending school, I applied for a job at the Disability Resource Center on campus and was offered an interview. It was then that I met one of the most impressive people I have ever known.
Mr. Gibson greeted me at the door with a smile on his face. He looked to be in his 30s, clean shaven, professionally dressed, wearing a newsboy cap. It wasn’t until I followed him back to his office that I realized he was blind. I watched as he effortlessly navigated his computer with the aid of a British accent screen reader that I could barely decipher. I learned later that he speeds up the screen reader voice to be more efficient.
I worked there for several years while I attended school. My job was to take students textbooks and convert them into a digital format using a scanner. Then I would run it through a program that would read the textbook aloud, allowing visually impaired students to be able to hear their textbook. You work best when you love your job, and I loved my job! Knowing I was helping others get an education pushed me to do the best I could.
Unknowingly, Mr. Gibson taught me that you can change lives simply by being a good person. Mr. Gibson changed my life by example; helping me become a better person. Everyday he had a smile on his face and was genuinely happy to be alive and it showed. To this day, Mr. Gibson has remained a constant reminder of what it means to overcome obstacles, to never give up and above all, to stay positive. Volunteering through the school opened up a lot of doors for me. I was able to go and help with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina with other like minded people, most of which I am still friends with today.
Ever since I met Mr. Gibson I try and do my best to exude positive energy, keeping a smile on my face and a helping hand wherever I go. A smile can turn someone’s day around. I try not to complain when problems arise; after all Mr. Gibson doesn’t complain, even though he has good reason to. I appreciate each day, grateful for all that I have, knowing how fortunate I really am. Just because I am not always able to go out and volunteer, doesn’t mean I can’t help others. After all, Mr. Gibson helped me and he wasn’t volunteering, he was working. He was just being himself. He showed me that no matter where I am, even at work, I can make a difference too.