My mom shoved me into the car again. I didn’t know where we were going this time. I was only six and already didn’t know anything other than leaving.
I grew up with my parents fighting all the time. They would fight about anything they could think of. Their screaming and yelling pierced my ears. It would stop only to start again. My mom would move out with my brother and me, then, a couple months later, Mom and Dad would work it out and my dad would move back in. It became a pattern, and as happy as I would be that my family was together, I never knew when the “last time” would actually be the last time—until it was. My mom finally pulled up to an apartment that she called, “Our new home.”
My parents finally got divorced when I was 12 and it was hard for me. I came home from school and all of my stuff was packed. There was a moving truck outside. My mom had told me we were moving out and my dad didn’t know yet. She said she was going to email him later and explain. I called him later that night. It was the first time I’d heard my dad cry. All I could do was cry with him. I thought my mom had just ruined our family. I started to rebel and blame everything on her. She sent me to my grandma’s, where I would eat as she read me a Bible verse about respecting your parents.
One night, while my grandma was working and I was sitting on her bed watching TV, I just started to cry. Tears streamed down my face uncontrollably. My grandma closed her laptop immediately and wrapped her arms around me. I told her I didn’t want to choose sides, that I loved both of my parents and that I couldn’t choose between them. She wiped the tears off my face and said, “You don’t have to pick a side. You are allowed to admire both parents. Just admire their different strengths.”
Every year, Grandma organized a back to school event. She would have people come and stuff backpacks for kids of all ages, and then, a couple weeks before school, she would go to Bruce Vento Elementary and give them out, along with free haircuts and jeans. I saw parents of young kids crying and thanking my grandma for what she had done. I wanted to do things like she did and started to look for people who help people.
I went to school and watched the teachers, counselors and trainers. I started to notice small things they did and the ways they were getting to know me. My teachers could tell when something was wrong with me based on the slightest mistakes in my writing. The counselors always made an effort to talk to me and ask how my day was going, even outside of their office. Most importantly, the trainer, when I was injured, made sure I knew I was going to get better and that I would continue to get better in my athletics.
Through these examples, I realized something: The small things people do matter, a lot. I decided to volunteer so I could do the same for others. My mom always told me a Lao-tzu quote: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” she would say. Volunteering at Grandma’s back to school event was an important step toward my future.
Since then, I have found joy in volunteering with the newborn babies and toddlers at church. This summer, I will start coaching a youth soccer team. I love watching younger kids take on a sport that has given me so much. For me, teaching people and helping them is a life fulfilled. I want to pursue coaching and physical training as I move forward to help people, like my grandma helped me. I want to find out what they are capable of and be the strongest they can be. I’m excited for the next steps in my own thousand-mile journey.