Optimism creates new perspective

Tyler Dunlap

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feature photo by Aniqa Rahman

Finding inspiration isn’t usually something that we plan on doing. Most of the time it just happens, and it hits us. We are inspired.

This summer I decided I needed some good karma and something to spice up my college resume, so I decided it would benefit me to volunteer. The Boys and Girls Club of Columbia would be an easy place to show up, do the time and be done with it. I expected to walk in, play a few video games, eat a mediocre lunch with the kids and walk out feeling like I had done a good deed.

On my first day of volunteering, I went in determined to make the best of the experience. I sat down and started to make conversation with some of the kids, learning about their interests and hobbies and trying to connect. After an hour, I developed a sort of bond with an outgoing kid named Jayden.

Jayden, a 4 feet 6 inches tall 12-year-old kid from St. Louis, wore basketball shorts and a cutoff sleeve T-shirt. We discovered we shared similar interests, such as sports and music. Jayden was a little shy at first, but I was five years older than him. Who wouldn’t be a little intimidated?

As I kept making conversation and made jokes, he became much more comfortable and started to be himself. He started telling me about his personal situation at home and within a few minutes I had a good idea of what his life was like. He was an only child who lived with his single mother; she worked two jobs to make ends meet. I knew right away this kid had no easy life.

What amazed me about Jayden was his optimism and desire to make the best of everything he did. He made it his responsibility to talk to everyone and ensure everybody was getting along. Just about everyone seemed to like him. He was always laughing, cracking jokes and smiling, which for some reason, made me grin a little myself, as if I was proud of him. In a way, I looked up to him for being so charismatic and optimistic.

As soon as I left, I knew I would be coming back the next day and went home with a lot on my mind.

The positive energy and optimism coming from these little kids, despite the hardships moved me. If Jayden and these kids could have this much zest for life despite being put through physical and emotional struggles, I should do it with no problem.

Before I left that day, Jayden and I were doing the handshake we had been working on earlier. We were laughing and joking when Jayden told me he wished I could be his big brother. It suddenly hit me. I had been inspired to change my entire outlook on life.

Aside from having my own great time at the Boys and Girls Club that day, Jayden taught me lessons that I will never forget, the first one being: take everyone as they are, not as who they could be. Everybody has something to contribute that no one else can offer. The second one is: be determined to be positive. This is understanding that the greater part of your happiness depends not upon your circumstances, but by your attitude. He taught me to know that things will be different in the future.

We all have problems and hardships we have to deal with in life, but compared to the rest of life it is merely a moment. Knowing that bad times will get better and good times won’t always be good is a difficult thing to grasp, but doing so keeps us humble.
By Tyler Dunlap