by Kevin Shi

Being a teenager is horrible in a lot of ways. It’s a point of your life when all of the pressures of adulthood are conferred upon you, without any of the merits. You’re starting to develop real opinions for the first time while every tiny drama turns into the greatest tragedy in human history because your body is slowly eating itself with hormones. But it’s also a point when you have the energy to sleep three hours a night and still have enough juice to whine about it the next morning. It’s a point when you can do absolutely crazy things for no reason whatsoever. It’s a point where you can spend all that energy writing bad poetry, partying ’til the break of dawn or, if you really want to, making a difference for the first time in your life.

All the same, there’s nothing quite so privileged as a suburban, middle-class lifestyle, and teens from these backgrounds do their best to spread the wealth in whatever way they can. In a way, they receive as much as they give. For the first time in their lives, teenagers have the power to define themselves through their actions, and they do so in a number of ways. Some choose to aid the sick; others, the elderly; and others, the young. By doing what they can to help, teens find out exactly what it is that they can do, and that sense of personal identity is more precious to them than anything else.

For me, I chose to volunteer for Wells Bring Hope for two reasons. The first was to reach out into the world. I had spent my whole life inside of a sleepy little town called Thousand Oaks and I wanted to see what else was out there. Stepping down from my comfortable little pedestal, I saw that there were millions of people in West Africa who would do well to have a fraction of what I have, people who need something as simple as clean water. The second reason was because Wells Bring Hope let me contribute in the one way I knew best: with my writing. Writing for a cause is as important, if not more even more valuable, than writing for a living, and volunteering is a stepping stone to see if this is something I want to do for the rest of my life.

Some leap into the process thinking, “I’m going to save the lives of one million babies!” and are quickly disillusioned. Others profess more selfish reasons; once they hit the magical number of community service hours needed for college, they’re going to drop their shovels and move on. But volunteering is more than that. It comes to a point when there are no ulterior motives, just the act itself and the love of it.