When I was eight years old, I promised myself that I would change the world in some radical way. I’d always been an unusually sensitive and idealistic girl, but unfortunately, I struggled to bring my deeply-cherished daydreams into the world of reality. The next several years were tumultuous–full of low self-esteem, mental illness, and hopelessness. When I’d emerged and recovered from the suffering, sometime in sophomore year, the desire to change the world burned even hotter in my heart. My personal struggles had opened my eyes to what others could be going through. I could no longer remain silent; I hungered to be the person to bring hope to the broken.
And so began The Lollipop Project. Valentine’s Day was nearing, and I decided that the best way to connect with my peers was through food. I attached short, inspirational messages to 300 lollipops and distributed them among my classmates. Many more people were reached than I’d originally hoped. Seeing my fellow students light up with joy brought me a profound sense of satisfaction. Later that school year, I decided to do it again for a school-wide project. This time, I brought 900 lollipops and a small pad of paper. I asked students, parents, and teachers to write down anything they would say to a struggling person. The responses were honest, vulnerable, and deeply powerful. Reflecting on the project at the end of the day brought tears to my eyes. Through my lollipops, nearly a thousand people had heard the messages of hope I’d so desperately wanted to spread, and dozens had written their own kind words. I’d felt goodness and selflessness pulse throughout my school that day, and I took comfort in knowing that I was not alone in my desire to reach the brokenhearted.
The sensitive, idealistic girl in me has grown up to be a young woman who views changing the world not as a wish, but as a passion. I am now capable of putting my dreams into practice, and my heart aches knowing that there are people out there, lost and desolate, who are in need of the same hope I once felt a terrible lack of. With everything that I am, I strive to live my life as a candle of hope for those whose pain I know too well, fully believing that a society of love and goodness begins with one kind effort at a time.