This I Believe: One Wish

Feb 18, 2019

I believe in the power of never wishing anything away. When I turned 16 years old, I began to work in retirement homes. I was never called anything other than the “little girl.”

I quickly found out that even if I told them my name, they couldn’t remember it. So, I settled on being the “little girl” and owned it. I saw more things in the retirement home than I ever expected. I saw the residents almost every day. I saw their lives change on a weekly basis, whether the changes were good or bad.

My parents, like most, always said “Live in the moment. Don’t rush anything. Take it all in. Be a kid while you can, you will want this all back one day.” As all teenagers do, I ignored. I took all the words they said about being young for granted. Then, I began to work with elders, most the same age as my great-grandparents. I saw smiles fade, laughter becoming quieter, and dignity being thrown away. A resident told me one evening as I assisted her to bed, “Honey, I pray that you never feel any pain. You are so young, tall and skinny. I used to be just like you, Oh, what I would do to get those days back.” The way she spoke was brittle but calm. When she told me this, it was like a cry of help. I hear her voice in my head all the time. She is no longer able to tell me stories of her past.

Ever since she told me those wise words, I seem to look at life in a new and better way. I never seem to wish things away as I did before. I now wake up and relax as I drink a cup of coffee. I sit back in my high school classrooms and listen. I never ignore my grandparents’ call when it pops up on my phone screen; I answer on the first ring. Whether it is when I walk across the stage for my diploma or when I walk down the aisle with my dad, I am going to remember that I will wish there were just a few more hours in a day and few more days in a week.

I believe that when my hair is gray and my children are grown, I will be happy. I will be happy with the minutes, days and months that I never wished away.

Abby Smith reading her essay at the Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise.
Credit TAMARRA NEWBERN / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

Abby Smith receiving her scholarship at the Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise meeting.
Credit TAMARRA NEWBERN / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS