On Wednesday night I had the honor of attending the Children’s Defense Fund‘s New York “Beat the Odds” awards ceremony for five high school seniors who have done just that. It was an extremely well orchestrated affair, featuring a number of distinguished speakers like Harry Belafonte, Whoopi Goldberg and the organization’s president, Marian Wright Edelman. But it was the winners, each of whom will receive a $10,000 college scholarship and other services including mentoring, internship placements and job training.
These are incredible kids who have managed to shine academically and give back to their communities in spite of personal ordeals that would have defeated most people.
Their stories are truly inspiring. Listening to them made me want to do much more to help support the beneficiaries of this program, as well as others who face similar challenges. It also made me reflect on the great work various other organizations are doing to benefit underprivileged youngsters around the world, such as the campaign by Vitamin Angels to dispense essential nutrients to poverty-stricken children, infants and mothers – efforts that, for the moment, filled me with a certain pride.
But thinking about the obstacles that these particular kids had to overcome also made me wonder anout what adversity I had risen above. I even did a quick mental inventory of what I had accomplished during my life without having to contend with such impediments, which somehow paled in comparison to what the five students being honored at this affair had already managed to achieve. It had the effect of making me even prouder of them – but also made me challenge myself to transcend my own limitations.
In essence, the inspiration these kids provided has served to remind me that, given my lack of external handicaps, I should be capable of achieving a lot more than I do.
So, thanks to having attended this event, I have now resolved to step up my own efforts and accomplish more than I ever thought possible. I am also determined to do more to support stalwart youngsters such as these in beating the odds stacked against them.
The irony here is that the individual who invited me to this dinner and who is a key financial backer of both the event and organization, is the very person that is enabling me to take a more active role. I wonder if he knew that would be the result of his invitation?