West Chester University seeks to enroll a diverse group of talented and well-rounded individuals. We want to learn more about you and the personal characteristics you can bring to the West Chester University community. Please share with us your involvement in one or more of the following areas: extra- or co-curricular activities, performing arts, community service, diversity, volunteerism, athletics, work, leadership positions you have held, awards received, or any other life experience that has had a significant impact on you.
We gravitated towards the Ferris wheel's bright lights in the distance, as we walked away from the beach house towards the main attractions of Long Beach Island. I focused on the sand grains falling from my worn flip-flops to take my mind off the awkward silence between him and I.
He had always been cold and reserved. I had known him for years; I had even stayed at a beach house with him. Through observations, I realized nothing broke through the solid walls he had put up around himself. Knowing this, I never pushed him into being my friend; instead, I waited until he was ready to let me in, although I doubted it would ever happen.
As we arrived at the hotdog shack, we ordered two chili-covered, cheese-drenched, island-famous, shipwreck dogs. I searched through my bag to collect the crumpled up bills left over from my birthday money. Although he argued that he would pay with money his mom gave him, I knew his pockets were filled with Pop Rocks, a receipt from the surf store, and a picture of his dad. He surrendered quickly. After all, he was only eleven at the time and I was soon to be sixteen.
He picked where to sit and ate his hotdog as if he had never seen food before, the usual manner of a pubescent boy. No words were spoken, and I started to regret even going; then, he started to speak about his dad.
"My dad used to make the best chili. No chili could compare to it," Aidan said. Although it was short, it was something.
"Really? That sounds delicious. I love chili. I thought my Nana made the best but you have me convinced," I replied, without letting the unsettling feeling I had inside about his dad being brought up shake my voice.
Mike's talk about the chili was just a transition into a conversation that lasted long after our hotdogs. He spoke in depth about his father, explaining how he wished he had more memories of him. As the sun started to set, we lost track of time; eventually, we were shocked back to reality by the darkness of the sky. Our walk back to the beach house was filled with stories and laughter about school and friends.
As soon as we entered, Mike's mom pulled me aside, "He wasn't rude, right? I told him to behave," she said. I explained to her how great it was, and how Mike mentioned his dad. She looked at me with a flabbergasted expression, and her eyes welled up with tears. In disbelief, she told me Mike never speaks in such depth about his father to those outside of his immediate family.
Then, a wave of realization washed over me. Mike did not dislike me; he was waiting to trust me. All these years, he held in these words, needing to say them to someone at some point. I did not know I was that someone. Yet, in retrospect, I understand why the innocent hotdog outing ended up being the perfect backdrop for his release.
Mike is just one member of the thirty-seven Port Authority Police Department families who lost officers in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
I had been around Mike since I was in third grade, from wrapping and handing out Christmas presents to the widows and their children, to standing in a pew nearby at the annual church memorial service for the fallen officers. People define community service as taking action to help out those in their communities. They are usually aware when they are partaking in such services. I was not aware I was serving as a child, from one child to another, but now I know that simply being a friend, or being a support system for a person in need, is community service in itself.