Although we all face professional and personal challenges every day, my problem solving skills and ability to adapt to adversity directly stem from my childhood. Growing up in a small western Nebraska town with physical abnormalities, I felt a constant spotlight was shown on me because I was “different.”
At first blush, my hometown population appears to be homogenous. In all statistical proposes it was. However, statistics are just numbers on a page. They don’t have any real meaning until you get the opportunity to interact with them at a human level, or when you find yourself being a statistic. During my childhood, I found myself representing the “diversity” in my community.
At an early age, my parents instilled the mindset that we all face challenges and that I had it better than others. As a young child, I couldn’t comprehend the true meaning of this because I couldn’t mask my differences. It took a life-altering moment at the age of ten in order for my parents’ lessons to make sense.
Following an invasive and painful surgery to alter the function and shape of my right foot, I found myself alone in a Children’s Hospital recovery room. As I began feeling sorry for myself, the nurses wheeled in another kid roughly my age. This boy had undergone a reconstructive back surgery and was in excruciating pain. His pain was so severe; it made me forget my own. I spent the next half hour, until our parents entered the room, consoling him and applauding him on his strength and courage.
Shortly after our parents came in, we were separated into our own hospital rooms. To this day, I don’t know what ever happened to him, but I know this short interaction changed my life forever. I finally believed and understood what my parents were preaching. Despite our own personal challenges and shortcomings, we all hold the power to become involved and provide hope for others. Sometimes it takes a random event or a leap of faith to enrich the growth of our own humanity.This life lesson allowed me to become more confident in my own skin and want to help others.
Years later, my many experiences as a patient at Children’s Hospital and the compassion my family received from the various staff members and volunteers, led me to become active in my community and to volunteer with various children’s organizations, most notably Give Kids the World and the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Colorado. The confidence and self discovery I have gained volunteering for these amazing organizations helped wield my desire to study leadership and community activism.
Through my five plus years working for AAHA, I have had the pleasure to meet some amazing individuals and organizations that channel their talents and passion for the betterment of our furry friends. Although they may never see how much “trickle up” effect that their commitment has on society, their work is greatly appreciated. I am looking forward to celebrating these individuals and organizations every Tuesday by exploring their path on how they help others, one paw at a time.