Looking back at some of my college pictures brought back a barrage of memories, far from the norm of Beer Pong and sorority pledging many experience in their typical four years of school.
My memories involve many late nights, but for a different reason. I lived a double life, from being a college kid one moment to having someone’s life in my hands the next. What started off as a friendship became a mission to make his life an experience well beyond the couple of hours a day he got staff. Mission accepted.
After hours of school, work study, and internship at a local puppet and prop building shop, making a B line for the dorm and actually making it before I got that phone call was like winning the lottery. I can sleep in my own bed and relax.
But some days, I wasn’t so lucky.
If his staff left for the day, and he wanted something, or if it was something they skipped, off I went to make it happen. Not because I was expecting anything from it, but because I felt like it was the right thing to do.
Beyond the books was the greatest lesson in compassion, putting my desires to go clubbing aside for a night watching Spy Kids and helping him into his pajamas following a session of physical therapy, which at one point, I was the only one to get him to do his exercises. I put aside a social life for his Special Olympics events and his day program art shows. I gave up many night’s sleep in exchange for tucking him into bed after a bad dream and waiting for him to fall asleep so I could cram for my exams.
I look at pictures of my tired self and wonder why I put myself on the line like that. And sometimes, I mourn the life I craved and wished I could turn the clock back and relive my life on my terms.
And then I remember why I did it.
Watching him smile, knowing that for once in his life, he was loved. Seeing the joy in my face when he accomplished a level in his video game or used his crutches that day. Hearing him say his prayers while I’m in mid cram session, thanking God for “bringing my Mandy to me ”
If I had to do it again, I would in a heartbeat. I have my whole life to go out and have a little fun, like I do now a days. But it doesn’t bring that satisfaction I had knowing I made a difference in this world. Or at the very least, his.