My youngest son is a high school senior this year and has spent a lot of time in the last several months applying to colleges. Of course that means that he had to write several essays. I have really enjoyed reading his essays and have learned some things about him that I didn’t know. Here is one of my favorites that he wrote (this is the shorter of two versions of this essay as he reworked it for one university that requested less than 500 words).
The Human Potential by Joey Dyer
There I was, in McAllen,TX, kneeling down in front of a 40-something-year-old Hispanic woman washing her bare feet, having the most important revelation of my life.
I’ve gone on annual summer mission trips with my church youth group every year for the past six years, and I’ve grown to learn more about myself and society as a whole in the process. My trip to McAllen, however, was the first trip that caused me to reexamine and fundamentally change the way I live my life.
It was the summer after my freshman year in high school. I had developed a strong bond over the years with my youth group, a bond that inspired deep-seated trust and admiration among each other. I was the first of my timid group that summer day to walk up to a complete stranger and begin cleaning the dirt and sweat off their feet, but it was what followed that changed my outlook on life. As prevalent as their trepidation was just moments ago, my example allowed the other members of my group to step over the boundary of fear and release their inhibitions. One by one everyone followed my lead and began cleansing the feet of others.
I’m not boasting about my fearlessness or some special ability to lead those around me. My actions could have been performed by any other person within my youth group had I not been the first to volunteer. The sheer chance nature of the situation – just happening to be the first to step forward – helped me realize the innate ability to lead we all possess, and how often this gift is squandered.
Ever since that mission trip, I’ve tried to live my life taking into account not only how my actions affect others, but what I might be encouraging others to do. This is one of the core reasons why I became a Link Leader at my school the following year and why I want to work with other high school senior men in my church youth group to implement a mentoring program. I believe the most effective way to impact a community positively comes not through passing laws or voting for certain candidates, but by interacting with others on a personal level.
The revelation that I had that summer day while kneeling at the feet of another inspired me not only to believe in my own potential but to also believe in the potential of others as well. Since that day I have continued to be passionate about starting a wave of responsibility in every community I am a part of.
After washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus tells them “you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” The act of helping others is good in its own right, but others learning to follow in these actions is the birthplace of compassion.