Plainview’s Amanda Rogers, a student at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School and member of Makom, a Jewish community on Long Island, recently wrote this letter to her rabbi regarding her experiences this past summer doing community service in Nicaragua. With permission from Rogers’ mother Helaine, the Plainview-Old Bethpage Herald republishes her letter.
By Amanda Rogers
Strength comes in many different forms. Physical strength is usually the first thing that comes to mind when envisioning strength. For example, when someone goes to the gym to become stronger. However, the vast majority do not think of emotional strength.
Emotional strength enables individuals to have the power to do anything from an everyday task to doing things that are thought to be impossible. Emotional strength can come from almost anything or anywhere; a teacher can inspire a student to do better in school, teammates can motivate one another to get past an obstacle, friends can encourage each other to follow their dreams or just a simple compliment can give an individual inner strength. Moses’ faith in God gave him the emotional strength necessary to free the Israelites, lead them through the wilderness, and climb Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.
This summer I traveled to Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the western hemisphere. While abroad I had the opportunity to do community service within the poor communities.
These communities amazed me because although they did not have the gadgets and material items that we “cannot live without” in the United States, they had everything that they needed and had what communities like ours lack. After school the children go to centers in the communities and play together for the rest of the day. On weekends the entire community would converge onto a giant field where they would play games and connect with each other. In comparison to the communities in the United States, the community is an extended family. The community would draw strength, support and aid each other.
When my bus knocked down a power line that affected a single house on our way to the community center, all of the neighbors came out to support the family and help them repair the power line. The Nicaraguan community leans on one another to financially support their families and encourages each other to follow their dreams. Although this community doesn’t have much, one thing they do have is a strong bond and sense of community for one another that is fueled by emotional strength.
During my travels abroad my friends and I decided to buy some books to read with the local children. The local children were not very well educated due to a lack of a schools and education system. Their limited education is received at the local community center where people volunteer to teach them. The few of us that knew enough Spanish to read the books were joined by the little kids. They were unable to read well but they had the confidence to read with my friends and I to the best of their ability. They had the courage to join in with us and attempt to read the books. They weren’t embarrassed when they needed help with a word or couldn’t keep up with the pace someone was reading at. The children were just so happy that someone was spending time and teaching them. They were giving their undivided attention to my friends and I. The children did not care that they stuttered, or had difficulties. They had the strength and were determined to sit with us and do their best to read back to us.
Emotional strength does not come from outside sources; in order to truly have emotional strength we all have to turn inside and see our self worth and importance. You have to believe in yourself and know your own self worth. Emotional strength is building yourself up when you’re knocked down and recognizing when you need help. This is the most important source of emotional strength because no matter how much the people around you believe in you, it doesn’t matter unless you believe in yourself.