Hi everyone, this is my common app essay in response to the questions, "Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or an idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?"
I am not looking to go ivy-league, but I am looking at some very competitive schools, so any advice would be more than appreciated. Thank you!
His name was Jim, but I only knew him as the boy who smelled, and who was now the boy who I had to sit next to in seat 28A for five hours on this dreadful plane ride. It was not that I didn't like him; I just did not want to invest my time in a conversation with a boy who smelled.
His name was Jim, and now, after landing in Moore, Oklahoma, and arriving at the church I would call my home for the next 7 days while rebuilding a home after the tornado, I knew him as the boy who smelled AND the boy who was in my crew. I made eye contact with him, gave him a forced smile, and ran back upstairs to my friends, my comfort zone.
It was Day 1 of our work in Moore. I was Erica, the outgoing girl who did not know the first thing about a circular saw, but I thought I knew everything I needed to know about social situations, how to befriend the other people in my crew who, unlike Jim and me, weren't there from Newtown. I quickly gravitated towards the girl in my crew from Miami, and as Jim walked by, we both looked at each other as if to say, "I know what you're thinking!"
On the second day of work, I actually had the chance to speak to Jim alone. We were hammering a piece of wood to a wall, talking about the only thing that we had in common, Sandy Hook. I realized that Tim was not "just the kid who smelled", but he was an individual, and he had some of the most amazing ideas about positive change and reducing gun violence that I had ever heard from someone our age. By the next day, we had formed inside jokes with each other about how we were the least handy out of everyone. Jim was not "weird", in fact, he was one of the nicest boys I had ever spoken to, and I couldn't help but feel guilty because of how I had sat in my plane seat and judged him. Jim spoke to me about how he had never really felt accepted at Newtown High, where the social structure is dominated by who can wear the most expensive clothing. All at once, my emotions came crashing down, so I went outside to clear my head. How could I, someone so "in-tune" socially, be so wrong about a human being?
Immediately I changed my attitude towards my friends on the trip. Instead of feeling pressured into leaving Jim alone at dinner, I sat with him, and, even though it was against their wills initially, I made my friends sit with us. I realized that when Jim was happy, so was I. I watched my action of sitting with Jim create a ripple effect among my peers. Soon, the trip became what it was supposed to be, a trip based on hope and healing, instead of one of social hierarchy and judging.
On the last day, Jim pulled me aside. He began crying as he told me that I had made him smile more in the past week than he had in years. I began to cry too. Jim told me that he had considered committing suicide multiple times, but I had shown him that not everyone is the same. He said that I had proved to him that there were people in the world who would look past his appearance and into his heart. I had never been so humbled.
As I walked back onto the plane to go home, I passed seat 28A, and I realized that in one week, I had learned the most valuable life lesson there is; to never judge a person before you know their story.