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AVS.small.jpgThis is a story of hope.

Hope that was given to me as a child, as a teenager, as a college student, and as an adult. Many of the people who gave me that hope don’t even know how they truly impacted my life with a simple act of kindness.

I grew up like many of the kids that Snack Pak 4 Kids serves: with food insecurity. Many people think that childhood hunger is the starving kid you see on the television commercials – the one wasting away in some third-world country. And yes, these are hungry kids. But so was I.

Now, I wasn’t wasting away. I had much more than these children. I had a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in. But, I’m here to tell you that hunger has many faces, and one of those faces was of me as a 6-year-old child.

My dad at the time had a 6th grade education and was struggling to find his place in the blue-collared working world. My mom had just undergone a hysterectomy to remove the ovarian cancer the doctor had found a few months earlier. Our refrigerator had nothing in it, and I remember wondering when I would eat again. My family was all too often in that middle place, where we couldn’t qualify for government assistance but also couldn’t make ends meet.

My story is not unique. I read an article just the other day that said, “13 million children in our country suffer from food insecurity.” That’s 13 million children going to bed hungry. Snack Pak 4 Kids helps over 7000 kids each weekend. That’s such a huge number.

It can often seem impossible to really do anything, even with help. It would be so easy to just throw our hands up in the air and give up. What can one person really do?

I was reminded of the answer to that question last week while lying in bed watching a Facebook video of Admiral William H. McRaven. He was giving a speech about his time in Navy Seal training. He told a story about his unit enduring painful agony in the “Tijuana sloughs” as part of their training. The story ended with one of the soldiers buried in mud, singing a song which raised the spirits of the other soldiers keeping them from quitting. The message was this: The hope of one can change the world.  

This one Facebook video got me thinking about how many people instilled hope in me with just one simple act of kindness.

It was my aunt, who brought my family milk and eggs when our refrigerator was empty that time when I was 6, giving me hope that I wouldn’t go hungry forever.  

It was my soccer coach, who mailed all the scholarship applications I had filled out for college when she found out I didn’t have enough stamps to send them all in, giving me hope that I could get an education.

It was that successful city councilman, who took the time out of his busy schedule to come talk to a group of teenagers at Caprock High School, telling us that he too graduated Caprock some 20 years earlier, giving me hope that my background didn’t have to prevent me from succeeding.

It was my boyfriend’s mom, who gave me ten dollars of gas money after my dad passed away to help me be able to get to my college classes for the week, giving me hope that I could get through hard times and graduate.

These acts of hope grew my faith in humanity. While it’s obvious that Snack Pak 4 Kids and its many volunteers provide food for those in need, it’s less obvious that they help provide something just as important: hope.  

All too often, we think that, as one person, we can’t make an impact. I’m here to tell you that you do. Every time someone helps harvest an ear of corn, they let a child focus on learning instead of hunger. Every time someone helps pack or deliver the food, they show a family that they are important – that someone cares and that they are not alone.

That’s why I volunteer. I know that somewhere, I have touched the life of someone. They may never know my name or the exact thing I did to help them, but I may have changed their life forever. My small act of kindness may be what keeps hope alive in some child, and I know first-hand the power of hope. Hope can make all the difference in the life of a scared, hungry 6-year-old girl.

I urge you to help keep hope alive in whatever way you can. Give your money, your time, your efforts or a combination to help Snack Pak 4 Kids provide not just food, but hope to the children of our area.

Dr. Shauna Thornhill, O.D. is a national award-winning optometrist and owner of Amarillo Vision Specialists, P.A. She is a 1997 graduate of Caprock High School and dedicated volunteer in the Amarillo community. She supports numerous local projects, including Snack Pak 4 Kids and the Laura W. Bush Institute of Women’s Health.

Dr. Thornhill is a founding member of the Amarillo College LEAD program.  She is most proud of the Free Eye Exam/Toy Drive Day, which she created with her staff at Amarillo Vision Specialists. The event benefits Amarillo’s Toys For Tots and will be in its 6th year this November.

Join Shauna and help make a difference in the lives of children in our community. Volunteer at SP4K!