During my sophomore year, I was working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation at Michigan as the Wish Granting Director, an executive board position that I was proud to hold as a lowerclassman. For the most part, my duties consisted of attending board meetings and planning and attending the fundraising events that we put on. Occasionally, I would exchange emails with Make-A-Wish Michigan Management, as we were not allowed to directly communicate with the family. My last, and to me the most inconvenient, duty was to make trips to the post office every time there was a holiday so I could mail cards to the family from those of us at UMich. For the most part, I was more than happy to set time aside to be involved with the foundation even though it was sometimes a struggle having to give up relaxing after a long day of class or skipping out on Sunday night TV and takeout with my roommate.
Towards the end of second semester, though, I had to make a sacrifice much bigger than I had anticipated. After all the meetings, emails, fundraising events, and trips to the post office in the rain and snow, another responsibly was added under my position's description. I had to spend a day entertaining our Wish Kid, Aron, and his family at the Ann Arbor Natural History Museum. From the start, I felt as if there was a negative association with having to do this this. Even though only the President, Vice-President, and Wish Granting Directors were going on this trip, it seemed as if it was yet another duty. As I trekked through the snow on my way to the museum I was rubbing my hands together to keep them warm while carrying a 20-pound backpack.
On the walk, I kept thinking about how I was responsible for giving up a Sunday afternoon of studying in the middle of finals season to fulfill an obligation for another one of the clubs I'm a part of on campus. I was stressed out about losing a day's worth of work, missing out on an extra office hours session, and having to walk in the cold 20 minutes out of the way. What I didn't think about as I was walking was how this afternoon was going to offer me a paradigm shift that would stick with me for the rest of my life.
I didn't even need to speak to the family before I felt an impact. When I first set sight on 12-year-old Aron in his wheelchair, to which he is bound because of his progressive Muscular Dystrophy, I noticed what looked like a cape that one would wear while getting an X-Ray. I was confused, but then realized that this was his equivalent of a winter jacket -- he was too weak to put his arms into a jacket with sleeves. Throughout the afternoon, his mom and younger sister worked with the staff of the museum, requesting special permission to carry the fossils and exhibits to Aron, because he couldn't reach them himself. We even arranged to have a microscope brought to his lap so he could look at the same specimens that the other kids were looking at. Not once, did I see the smile fade from his mother's face. In fact, bringing the specimens and fossils to Aron made her face glow of happiness. She didn't look at his condition as a burden; she did what she needed to do to give him the experiences he deserved.
Saying the whole experience brought me back down to earth would be a total understatement. Not only did it make me so grateful for my health and family, but it also put into perspective everything that I was going through at the time. I realized that if the biggest stress of my day was walking to the furthest library in the cold because I wasn't able to save a table at Starbucks earlier, then I had so many things to be grateful for. I realized how blessed I am not only to be able to walk, but also because I am able to effortlessly learn as I don't think twice about punching numbers in my calculator or taking a lap around the library just because I need a break -- both things that Aron would not have the physical capacity to do. At the end of the day, I was ashamed at the fact that I originally saw the afternoon as an obligation, when it ultimately proved to be a privilege and an uplifting experience.