Compassion | Abby Donelson | [email protected]

Translator: Denise RQ
Reviewer: Elisabeth Buffard Compassion. What does that mean to you? How can we live it in our daily lives? Please take a minute to think about that
while I share my story with you. My dad’s name was Emery Donelson. He passed away when I was eight years old. It was a Monday, in November. I still remember my Mum greeting me
and my older brother at the bus stop. I approached the house, wondering why there were
so many extra cars in the driveway. I didn’t realize how much
my life was about to change. To this day, it is still
really difficult for me to watch kids playing with their dads. It reminds me how much I miss him. I remember that
whenever my dad… whenever I would get an A on a test,
my dad would dance with me. He was a horrible dancer, but I loved it. (Laughter) It is the everyday activities like that that are the little things
that seem so big now he is gone. Now that I’m a teenager, I don’t have him to play
the over-productive dad role that most teenage girls get
when they start going on dates. I never got the chance
to be daddy’s little girl. After my dad passed away,
my mum took me to this camp. I didn’t know what to think about it. All I knew was it was
a camp for kids just like me. Kids, who had lost a family member. The camp was called Comfort Zone. I believe that Comfort Zone saved me. I loved Comfort Zone so much that as soon as I was old enough
to become a Junior Counselor, or as we call it JC, I did it. I will never forget
the first time I was a JC. I worked with the 7 and 8 year olds. When I got home that weekend, I realized that I was exactly their age
when I learned of my dad’s passing. It was amazing to see how much they grew
in the short time that they were there. And it was special to me
that I got to give back what I was given. One important thing that we do
at Comfort Zone is pin exchange. We give a pin to someone who we believe has done something really amazing
or gone outside their comfort zone. For some, it is sharing their story. For others, it is being
a leader in their group. In my time at Comfort Zone, I have earned pins
for things like being lifted because I’m afraid of heights and for comforting someone
who was really struggling with their loss. One time, I gave a pin to a little girl who had been shy all weekend
and now wanted to share her story. On the last day, she took me aside and told me all about
how her dad passed away. It was amazing. She gave me a pin for listening. That is what Comfort Zone
teaches: compassion. When I was in fifth grade, we had new neighbors
moving next door. They had a daughter who was my age.
She was energetic and crazy. Her name was Cameron Gallagher. Little did I know
that we would become best friends. At first, Cameron and I
were just normal friends. We did things together,
but we also got on each other’s nerves. A lot! (Laughter) As Cameron and I grew up,
our friendship grew stronger. All throughout our friendship, Cameron
dealt with insecurities and feelings that she couldn’t always control. Cameron was dealing
with teenage depression. It wasn’t always easy
being Cameron’s friend. In fact, it was really
difficult sometimes. Sometimes, the things
that Cameron told me scared me. I didn’t always know what to say
to Cameron, but I always listened. I always made sure she knew
how much I loved her. One day, when Cameron’s
parents weren’t home, Cameron was having a really hard time. I was really scared for her. I ran to her house,
picked her up, and took her out. We got lunch and went to the park. After that, we came back to my house
and studied for an English test that, if I’m being completely honest,
both of us did miserably on, because who can study with their friends? We were too busy giggling and not
actually studying the entire time. Later that night, my mum told me
that I was a really good friend, but I don’t think I did anything special, because I believe that that is
what friends should do for each other. A good friendship is based
on kindness and compassion. Later that week, Cameron came
to me with a crazy idea. She wanted me to help her hold a 5K [race]
to raise awareness for teenage depression. She wanted to call it the “Speak Up 5K”. It was easier to tell that Cameron
was passionate about the subject. Of course I agreed to help her. Cameron had compassion for people who
were dealing with the same issue she was. That was a week before Cameron died. On March 16th 2014, Cameron and I woke up bright and early
to run our first half marathon. That was the last thing
that we did together. Around mile 12, Cameron was
really struggling to keep running. We took a stretch break, and she looked
at me and said, “Let’s finish this.” And that’s what we did. Cameron and I finished
our half marathon together. After we hugged, we were walking away
with our arms around each other, and Cameron collapsed. She died that day. For a long time, I blamed myself
for Cameron’s death. I said things like,
“I should have stopped her.” But then I realized
that I was just being there for her like I had on that really hard day. I was helping Cameron
through her last big struggle. In the hospital, her mum,
who I call Mamma Grace, told me that Cameron
had said to her the week before that I was her very best friend
because I was the only one that knew everything about Cameron
and still loved her unconditionally. I will always share spending
Cameron’s last day with her. After Cameron died, there was
an overwhelming response from the public to run her race. People had compassion
for Cameron and her struggles. I immediately decided that I was going
to finish what Cameron started. Cameron’s family,
many wonderful volunteers and I put on a beautiful 5K to honor
Cameron and her last wish. Just look at that. 3,000 people came out
to run Cameron’s race. 3,000 people came out and helped us raise over $150,000 for teenager depression. That’s Cameron’s family and me
looking over that huge crowd. We were blown away. When promo started for the 5K,
Mamma Grace started telling people that the most important thing
is to be nice to people. That speaks volumes
to my message of compassion. Show compassion to people
that you don’t understand. I learned that to the death
of my dad and Comfort Zone. I realized that people might not always
understand why I was upset. It was also enforced through
my friendship with Cameron. People weren’t always nice to Cameron because they didn’t
understand her illness. But I feel I helped make that difference,
as I kept Cameron going every day. I showed compassion
to Cameron and her struggles. Comfort Zone will continue
to show compassion to people who are struggling
with the loss of their family member, and the Speak Up 5K
will continue to show compassion for those struggling
with teenage depression. But what can you do? Compassion is defined as a feeling of wanting to help
those who are struggling. I feel I have made a difference
to kids at Comfort Zone and Cameron by showing compassion
to them and their struggles. Now, I challenge you to show compassion to people who you believe
are having a hard time. Show compassion to people that you know. I challenge you to speak up
for those who are down. Now, take a minute to think. How can you make a difference
in someone’s life? Who can you show compassion to? Thank you. (Applause)


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