The Baum

Lauren Berenbaum

I love Community Service. After my amazingly delicious thanksgiving dinner, I found my way slowly waddling to the comfy couch. There, I sat with my family, cousins and all, watching CNN Heroes. At first I did not really understand the significance of the televised award ceremony. A hero? What is a CNN Hero? Well I soon found out that these classified CNN heroes are human beings who are exceptional people that work for the greater good of society. They were nominated because of their extraordinary service.
These people have given everything to help others—their money, their time, and most importantly, their energy. I saw a bus driver who drives around Queens, New York making sure people have food. I saw a Zimbabwean woman who helps empower women of all ages who have been raped. I saw a man without legs providing prosthetics to young children so they can walk. I saw a soldier handing out wheel chairs to Iraqi children. I saw a breast cancer survivor traveling around Florida providing free services to women without health insurance. I saw kind, normal citizens giving back.
They all had a cause, a purpose they found—whether it was from a situation they went through or just because they saw a way to better the world. Even so, the one thing I noticed about all of them was that they did not care that they had received this award; in their eyes, they did not need recognition. Their modesty filled my eyes with tears. I was overcome with a range of emotions—I felt both inspired and guilty. How could I be stuffing my face with turkey and stuffing as millions and millions of children and their families were starving, hoping for a better tomorrow? How could I go to a doctor and receive amazing medical care while millions of others are waiting for hours at the hospital for emergency attention? It just is not fair.
Every situation was mind-blowing and the ceremony could not have come at a better time. It truly made me feel grateful. Grateful for my home, my family, my friends, my opportunities, and of everything that has come easily to me. I do not have to worry about having clean water. I do not have to worry about being able to walk, nor do I have to worry about having a home. The show in some ways has helped me to understand my place in the world. Throughout most of my life, I have participated in community service one way or another—but nothing ever like this! How could I give back? What cause do I stand for; do I want to go to capital hill and protest? Unfortunately, the cause that I want to stand for is still out there and it has not been discovered.
In addition to this full-blown inspiration, the one cause that really stood out to me was a program started by Betti Makoni. When she was 14 years old, her uncle raped her. In Zimbabwe, there is a well-known myth that if a man rapes a virgin, they will be cured of their HIV. After having gone through such an ordeal and devastation, she felt empowered to do something to help these young girls. She realized that she cannot stop the torment, but she can help. Through her religious groups and motivational seminars she raises awareness about the abuse. She is fantastic; she is strong; she is kind.
I want to feel this passionate about a cause. I feel that there are times when we all try to help out, but fall short when we get close to a breakthrough. Dedication, persistence, and determination should be stressed when doing community service. So next time when you want to get involved, do something you really care about. It is not bad to start small—in some ways it is all about baby-steps. My advice to the Harriton High School community: take on one cause and strive to be that next CNN Hero.