In my 23 years, I have seen a lot of death. Before I even left primary school, I lost one of my favorite Spanish teachers to a plane crash in Michigan, I lost my beloved Grandpa, and I witnessed the traumatic death of my best friend’s dad. In high school, I lost three of my favorite teachers and mentors to cancer, and I lost both my Grandma and my Great-grandmother. And in the past few years, I’ve lost four friends – Justin, only 20, was killed in 2006 by a drunk driver, one friend (21) committed suicide, Lauren, 23, was killed by carbon monoxide poisoning (a result of an apartment fire) in 2008; and most recently, Molly, 22, was one of the hundreds of thousands of victims taken by the earthquake that struck Port au Prince, Haiti in January 2010.
However, in all this tragedy, I find a great amount of inspiration and life. It may sound strange, but I think the loss of four friends, four very young, incredible people, really made me realize how short and unpredictable life really is. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you are doing, or where you are. You can’t avoid death.
Where am I going with all this? I guess I am trying to say that life cannot be taken for granted. Life can be taken from us in an instant – whether at the hands of another human being, a natural catastrophe, or illness, etc. This means we should not only pay more attention to and appreciate the simple, little pleasures in life, but also that we should stop procrastinating, stop worrying about “what if’s”…and just ACT. As Edmund Burke once said, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” This is probably one of my favorite quotes of all time, and I truly believe in it. I also believe just as strongly in the opposite, meaning that all that is necessary for the triumph of good is for good men to do something. As Rachel P., a college friend of mine who survived the Haiti earthquake notes, “ordinary people can do extraordinary things.” If only we were all more like Molly, being proactive and not reactive.
After the death of my long time childhood friend, Justin, I became active in MADD (Mother’s Against Drunk Driving). I spent time volunteering at overnight DUI checkpoints, performing compliance checks, and raising awareness of the dangers of driving drunk. I’ve always felt strong about responsible consumption of alcohol, and throughout high school was involved in Students Against Drunk Driving, but it took Justin’s death for me to wake up and start really doing something.
Now, after Molly’s tragic death, I’ve also been inspired. Being thousands of miles away from Oregon, where most of my friends have been participating in fundraisers for Haiti, shoe drives (Shoes for Molly), benefit concerts, etc., I felt compelled to do something here in Spain. So, I did. Simple as that. Immediately after the earthquake, I made a donation to Friends of the Orphans in Molly’s name. But it was small, and I wasn’t satisfied with my contribution. But since I wasn’t financially in a position to donate the funds that I wanted to, and that were so desperately needed in Haiti, I decided to organize something that would get a lot of people to all contribute a little…with the idea that the end result would in fact be a lot! So, I marched into the Ubrique town hall one morning and asked permission to speak to the director of cultural affairs. I presented my idea to set up a bar during one of Ubrique’s many festivals/events to raise money to send to Haiti, and to my surprise was basically told that if I could pull it off, I could do it. I went to work immediately, and in only two weeks, was able to “pull it off.”
For those of you who can also read/understand Spanish, here is a link to the blog of Ubrique (Los Callejones), and an article/write-up of me and the event. http://loscallejones.blogspot.com/2010/04/ashley-beck-y-su-solidaridad-con-haiti.html
Thank you Justin, Loren, Lauren, and Molly for this reminder.