This is a blog post, written by Wellspring Living advocate, Lindsay Bowley.
Recently, I was at a benefit for Wellspring Living hosted by Aimee Copeland, the young college student who lost several limbs of her body due to a flesh-eating bacteria. When I met this woman, she looked at me right in the eyes and spoke with a heart of true joy about how grateful she was to be able to do something for the girls served by Wellspring Living. When I heard her talking, I couldn’t help but take in her condition. She was missing her hands and arms from the elbow down. One leg was completely gone. The other, completely useless to her, was cut off from below the knee down. How could a woman in this state have the kind of happiness that radiates from her eyes and bursts forth in her speech? As she and I talked about how she was able to make it through such a harrowing ordeal, she told me that it was very therapeutic for her to put her focus on others. It was very clear that she made the conscious decision to not wallow in her tough circumstances. Instead, she chose to honor Wellspring Living, showing compassion towards girls who are broken, abused, and needing.
As I reflect on my encounter with Aimee, I can’t help but wonder how this translates into my life and the lives of those around me. I am a teacher, someone gets to invest in around 165 8th grade lives on a daily basis. The students under my care are battling many of their own demons. Some have watched their families rip apart due to divorce. A few of my kids have experienced the death of a parent or friend. Some are grappling with past or current abuse, and countless others are trying their hardest to be “normal”, yet every school day is a challenge. Although none of them have Aimee’s exact story, many struggle to carry their own burden of pain and heartache.
In this self-centered, “Me first!” culture, it is so easy to wallow in self-pity, but as I learned from Aimee, this is not the healthiest way to cope with hurt. I have decided that as a teacher, I want to guide my students to begin learning how to redirect their focus towards others with something called a service-learning project. This type of assignment is one where students work together to serve someone who is less fortunate than them. Teaching students about social issues like human trafficking or world hunger can open their eyes up to the fact that their might be someone out there in more pain than they are. They can take field trips, write blog posts, and learn how to harness their social media skills to be advocates for those who have no voice. This type of project is developed and implemented by students who have observed needs and are researching and writing about how to meet them.
One great resource for teaching social justice issues is UNICEF’s website. They have lesson plans and fact sheets ready to go for teachers who want to incorporate this type of material in their classrooms. Churches are another place to go when looking for organizations to partner with – many times youth groups already have middle school or high school based projects that you can use as a template for your own classroom. Another great resource is a school counselor; they frequently have to partner with groups to help the students under their care. If field trips are not an option, even just having students research organizations that are doing good work in your area can be enough for them to see that there are others around them that could use help.
Putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own is such an important life skill. Train the teenagers in your life to make a lasting impression by serving those who are less fortunate. As Aimee Copeland noted, looking at the needs of others can truly help you cope with your own pain. It can even be the first step toward healing!