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   WZM Award for Compassion 


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WZM Award presented on June 9, 2011 to Alexis Lopez, Garfield High School

 

Ripples of Change
By Alexis Lopez

A feeling of deep sympathy is how the New World Webster Dictionary describes compassion but to me compassion isn’t just a feeling, it’s the will to act on that emotion. It is defined by the way we live our lives and in my life I’ve learned to guide myself through acts of compassion however it took a near death experience to show me the power of acting on compassion.

In the winter of 2007, a few days after a Christmas celebration, fate struck me in a way I could’ve never predicted. A burning fever coursed through my veins and a stabbing pain penetrated my left abdominal side and what I felt was going to be the last thought of my life passed my mind, I could’ve done more. I fell into a septic shock coma, my own body had poisoned me with toxic waste shortly after my appendix had burst. The doctor never failed to remind me how lucky I was during my four month hospital stay spent in intensive physical therapy; I was part of the 25% of children who survived such a sever case of appendicitis. My body had withstood four different surgeries that drained me of the toxic fluids and repaired my scarred intestines. As I laid in a morphine drip daze on my hospital bed I had the same thought cross, I could’ve done more. While at the Children’s Hospital I met children who were in worse situations than that of my own; my roommate was a fifteen year old boy who was undergoing chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer. In the room next door a premature seven month old infant was fed through a surgical hole in its frail belly because his stomach was malformed, his mother wept all night. I would leave the hospital, but the mental image of those children never left my mind and only served to reassure me on one point. What this world could use was an ounce of compassion and living could be so much easier even for kids like these.

The world is an unimaginably large place and I understood that the only way I could hope to make a difference would be through small ripples of kindness that could transform into immense waves of compassion. When November arrived I ventured deep into the heart of Los Angeles to the streets of Skid Row to help an often neglected majority. I’ve never been a person to hand over coin change to a homeless person on the street because I realized real difference could only occur if I took care of it with a hands on approach. So I volunteered to donate food and time by helping serve turkey and mashed potatoes to Skid Row residents during the Thanksgiving season. While I worked I couldn’t help but notice the weary but cheery faces of seniors, parents, and children whose day was brighten up by such a small act of compassion that most of us take for granted. I didn’t have millions of dollars to give but I did have millions of my body’s fibers all pushing me to give them all my energy in the form of aid. I understood that simple prejudices often cloud judgment; these people were just citizens who broke under the turbulent economic times and deserved to be treated with the same kindness all humans have a right to.

Compassion, to me, was defined through my own acts of kindness. When I’m asked of compassion I think of the relatively small number of people I helped because they’re part of the ripple effect I hope to create. To other people it may come or be shown in different forms but the final effect is always the same and that’s to realize that we can’t all be happy and we can’t avoid any of life’s dangers but through compassion we can make sure that we never fail to help a human being in need.

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Ruth Ratna Handy, LCSW
jizopeacecenter@gmail.com
(661) 242-6956


 

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