High School Writing Competition

1st Place Entry


Helping Hands

by Ashley Smith, Vance High School

11th Grade

Burning, consuming and vexatious, that itch in the very center of your spinal cord seems very content to enjoy a pleasant and extensive stay, untroubled by the great discomfort it’s causing you. At the moment, nothing is and will ever be as crucial as the plaguing sensation that sits just high enough, and just low enough to be completely out of your reach. You bend and stretch and squirm in the hopes that one of these bizarre movements will be the key in freeing you from this troublesome burden. As you silently begin to sacrifice such precious items as your dog, your wedding band, and your next three meals for a thing so simple and so complex as comfort, you are relieved. The stranger standing next to you in the Subway, the man whose eye you failed to meet as he boarded, has noticed your pain and taken action. All he did was rub the tips of his fingers over your suit jacket; but this man, this John Doe, has possession of your life for one single, solitary second.

Now, to put things in perspective, an itch is only an itch. It is not disease or famine or bondage or warfare; it does not destroy families and entire nations, while bringing grown men weeping and to their knees. What if you had a burning itch or a burning stomach, bonding pains or bonding chains, dying siblings or a dying spirit? Would you not welcome and plead for the support of another? Suppose you were simply being discriminated against, that’s not an offense as serious as starvation or murder. Yet, starvation and murder are the effects of discrimination. Nevertheless, we fail to help those whose rights are abused until their mistreatments begin to personally affect us. If we could only realize the effects of aiding people before we are affected, we could become a better race of people morally, politically and socially.

Helping others without helping ourselves is a moral obligation we have been asked to fulfill since the sun first shone its golden rays upon the bleak earth. To take notice of someone who is being denied equal treatment because of an ascribed status, because of something they have not a single ounce of control, and to take no action, that is simply and completely wrong.  When Moses stood at Mt. Sinai to receive the ten commandments from the heavens, and when Confucius developed his golden rule, it was for good reason. We are required and requested to treat others as we would like to be treated. Therefore, as we see a person who is made of the same things as us, ruled by the same creator as us, and dealing with the same emotions as us, but treated differently than us, it is the responsibility of us to make that being equal. Not because of the treasures we may gain or the riches we may loose should we come to the aid of those who need, but because it is a sin to ignore them.

Although we should expect no gains from decency, great rewards often accompany good deeds, especially in the political arena. It’s a basic law of physics, chemistry, and biology: Organisms endeavor always to remain in a state of equilibrium. Therefore, when we direct one good deed towards an individual, their only choice is to return the favor so as not to upset the delicate balance of the universe. In worldly affairs, this tactic of helping those who are less fortunate has supported the United States in becoming a world power. This great benefit is only one of the many that come when we help those who are not ourselves.

Socially, this world could progress eons if only we could learn to help others the moment they are treated unfairly. Discrimination is the first item of a long list where the final details are far, far worse. A grand example always stirring in the back of our minds is Adolf Hitler and the persecuted Jews. For reasons illogical and unknown, Hitler despised Jews; he was prejudice. When he acted on this prejudice by banning Jews from the public, that became discrimination. No one took any action towards his immense hatred because it did not concern them. As simple discrimination no longer satisfied evil needs, things were taken a step further: Jews were removed from their homes and gathered into concentration camps. In these wretched camps, genocide consisting of starvation and cold-blooded murder became the past time. Finally, as Hitler’s will became an infectious disease, the rest of the world found a need to intervene. If there had been a want to intervene earlier, how many lives could have been saved? It took a huge catastrophe for us to understand there was a problem needing a fix. Next time, which is this very second, let’s stop the hate before it starts, it saves everyone from monuments of grief.

We should fight for those injustices that don’t affect us; they will. To speed up the process of equality, we must argue for those injustices that will not directly result in our well-being. Not only will we gain consolation prizes for our efforts, our consciences will be satisfied with our choices. Even if the group you come to support has beliefs that you disagree with or hate, still support them. Remember, the only thing we stand up for when we stand for another is equality. So, open your eyes to backs that itch; they’re everywhere.