What it means to me to have my parent or guardian involved in securing our community.
Once there was a prince who lived in a kingdom with mysterious rooms hiding treasures. He explored the kingdom in a carriage his grandfather chauffeured. He had a secret garden where he enjoyed majestic flowers. Life was a fairy tale. One day, however, while the prince was playing in his bedroom, he heard a noise. Then he heard a scream, followed by a thud and a loud wheezing. Eventually, he heard a car drive away. When he saw his mother, she was hysterically calling 9-1-1. Both his grandparents were on the ground...his grandmother was bleeding.
That's when reality set in. A robber had broken in and struck my grandmother's head with the butt of his gun. She screamed as she hit the floor. My asthmatic grandfather nearly suffocated in panic. Worse, in the end, the invader got away. In a perfect kingdom, good guys never get hurt, bad guys always get caught. That day, I learned that the real world wasn't that way. In truth, I was no prince. My kingdom was nothing but a Public Storage facility my grandparents managed. The carriage was just a golf cart. Our garden was a patch of wild flowers by the freeway. To save us from homelessness, my grandparents offered us one of their rooms behind the manager's office. My traumatic experience taught me that looking at the world idealistically leaves one more vulnerable to disappointment and pain. I saw all these awful things around me and I thought to myself, "This is a harsh world, but what can I do? Good guys end up last so I'm just going to protect myself."
But in school, I learned about the events of 9/11. I learned that among the victims who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center were 343 firefighters. For some reason, the images of that day haunted me. While people streamed out of that building, firefighters were actually rushing in. " Who does that?" I thought. When my mother started dating Albert, a firefighter, I kept my distance at first. I already had a hard time trusting people. Anyone interested in my mother was watched very carefully. Over time, though, I couldn't help but gain respect for the man who would one day become my stepfather. At times, my mother and I would visit him at work and I saw the dedication he and his fellow firefighters displayed for the well-being of their community. This was not something they were faking. They genuinely cared.
My mind went over again the events of that day when my grandparents were injured. As a child, I was too overcome with fear to see everything around me. But not that I was older, I started to remember other things - like how the firefighters were the first ones on the scene. And how they made sure my grandparents were in stable condition...how they did their best to calm me down, telling me everything would be okay.
One day, the family was shopping in downtown L.A. It has hot and crowded. The woman next to me suddenly fainted! While others gathered around her and stopped and stared, Albert sprung into action. He told everyone to move back and giver her some space so she could have some air. He told the store owner to call 9-1-1 while he positioned her on her back. He checked her airways to make sure it was clear; checked for signs of circulation; and made sure her legs were elevated. Thankfully she revived and he calmly asked her how she was feeling while the store owner gave her a drink. By the time the ambulance came, she was fine. My stepfather became my hero that day. I learned a valuable lesson: protecting yourself...keeping your distance from those in need might be safer and make you less vulnerable - but it's not the way to live.
I realized then good guys don't end up last. They actually do come out on top like my stepfather, who will always be at the top of my list. His example to me taught me that if there's a need and there's something I can do to meet that need, I shouldn't hesitate. Watching him at work...even when he is off-duty..made me determined that I want to spend the rest of my life, helping my community as well. I'm not a prince living in a fairytale land but this doesn't mean I can't make a difference and start changing the world to make it a better place.