Thursday, May 29, 2014

GUEST POST: "XII" by Tatiana Martin

by Tatiana Martin 

At age 18, my BFF Tatiana
Martin is the greatest and
most inspiring person I have
ever known. A truly gifted
young writer, I've been trying
to persuade her to contribute
a blog feature for nearly two
years. Today, she finally
delivered — and it's a gem.
The number 12 evokes several connotations, and is a very well-known universal number throughout the world. In the ancient Greek religion, there were 12 Olympian gods who ruled over the Pantheon. In the Christian religion, there are 12 days of Christmas and 12 apostles of Jesus. King Arthur had 12 knights sitting at his round table with him. There are 12 pairs of ribs in the human body, 12 inches in a foot, and 12 face cards in a deck.

Aside from being a rather recurring number in the society around us, the number 12 is one that applies to me on a very personal level. For 12 long and miserable years, I watched helplessly as my mom suffered the corollaries of cancer and its heavy, radioactive treatment. Regardless of her ailing state, however, she never failed to give her life to others. Barely even able to walk each day, my mother did everything in her power to make sure everyone around her was not only content, but in a better place than herself.

Just like the Aztecs predicted the earth to come to an end, the date 12/12/12 was the day my world collapsed, the day my best friend, my mother passed away. For an extended period of time, I wallowed in self-pity, asking the same question over and over again: why would this happen to me? While I sat with my mom, holding her hand until her very last breath, I felt my callow, adolescent life slowly transform into womanhood. As I felt my whole world cave in, I somehow knew that it was the end of one life, yet the beginning of a new one.

It wasn't until a few months later when I took on the role of being a caregiver to my 12-year-old sister that I truly felt the call to nurture others. My life started to revolve around her — from dawn until dusk I would cook breakfast, take her to school, clean her laundry, tidy the house, do the dishes and take her to doctor appointments. But most importantly, I made sure that there was always a smile on her face and love in her heart. Shockingly, however, I noticed that it wasn't so much me making the difference in her life; she was completely altering mine. Her great optimism and heart made me want to strive to give to others the happiness that she offered me.

Needless to say, the day of my mom’s passing was the day that I started to realize how short and outrageously beautiful life is. It opened my eyes to the world around me and made me truly realize how blessed I am to have what I have: a family, supportive friends, a home, and most importantly — faith. My mom's 12 favorite words: “there’s always going to be someone bearing a heavier cross than you” started to thrive in my brain, and I tried the best I could to live with this quote engraved in my heart.

In the summer of 2013, I was invited to attend a Catholic youth conference called Steubenville by the youth ministers at my local parish. There, I learned about opportunities to help the poverty-stricken, especially a tiny African nation called Burkina Faso, the third poorest country in the world. I participated in a food-packaging event and helped  assemble 100,000 meals for this landlocked nation. Knowing that thousands of people were willing to come together for such a cause, I was inspired to organize a similar event to help feed the people  who desperately need it the most.

I contacted the main food supplier in Orlando, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and they provided me with the price of each bag of food: $.50 for a four-serving bag of soy, rice, dehydrated vegetables, and a vitamin packet. After hosting several meetings with many officials at my church, we all agreed that raising $10,000 to package 20,000 meals for Africa would be the most reasonable amount, financially and physically. Throughout the course of two weeks, I spent roughly 210 hours publicizing this event on social media sites, speaking to large masses of people, and hosting a pep rally for the church’s school, asking for about 300 packaging volunteers and large amounts of monetary support. Our goal slowly increased and by the completion of our two-week funding period, we more than doubled our goal and raised $25,000 — enough to package 50,000 bags of food, and had about 1,200 volunteers sign up to package meals. This was CRS’s largest single-parish meal packaging movement ever to be conducted in America.

Organizing my meal-packaging event not only satisfied the cravings of 200,000 starving citizens in Africa, but it helped nourish my passion toward helping people in this world who have less than I do. Being offered an internship at Orlando’s CRS headquarters to host more of these humanitarian events, and even being personally invited to lead a full-paid mission trip to Burkina Faso by the executive secretary of the United Nations, the most important aspect that my leadership position granted me was the ability to find myself, and pinpoint exactly what I want to do in my future: care for others, and put into action the unconditional love that my mother supplied to the world.

After being diagnosed with cancer in the year 2000, the doctors gave my mother about six years to live, however, she refused to give up and lived six more than that. In church, they say that God made man in his own image, and my mom’s short life has proved this to be 112% true. I thank God every day that I had the strongest woman in the world to pass down the purest love, strength, and God’s grace for me to continue to leave an impact on the world.
-Tatiana Martin
(May 2014)

Do you have something to say, something to get off your chest or an amazing story to share? From pop culture views and reviews to political commentary to messages of faith, my blog is a great platform for writers to showcase their work. There are very limited criteria for submitting a post. Your views don't even have to be in line with mine — just create and contribute a compelling, well-written story. Interested? Send me and email.


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