Give Back by Paying Forward
By Dallas Woodburn
By all rights, I should not be writing this. I should not even be here at all. I was born three months prematurely, weighing a mere two pounds, six ounces. For the first few months of my life, I was in the hospital, kept alive by feeding tubes and a respirator. My harrowing entrance into the world is a daily reminder for me of the fragility of life, and to pursue my dreams with both joy and urgency – dreams are too important to "put off" till tomorrow!
The night I was born, a doctor who was caring for me told my father, “Your daughter is a fighter.” Still today, I draw strength from those words. My mantra has become “P.A.S.T. – Preemies Are So Tough.” Whenever I feel down or discouraged, I remind myself of my past. Compared to being kept alive by a respirator and feeding tubes, nothing seems insurmountable.
Every year on my birthday, I visit the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the local hospital. I introduce myself to the worried parents of the sickly preemies and tell them how I was once a tiny baby in an incubator myself. You would never know it now. I am five-foot-ten, an honors student, and ran track and cross-country in high school. The parents tell me I give them hope. Visiting the NICU is my most treasured birthday tradition. It reminds me how incredibly blessed I am to be alive and healthy today.
All of us have gone through difficulties in our lives. All of us are indebted to people who have given us so much that there is no way we can ever repay them. Instead of trying to pay back, I urge you to focus on paying forward. Volunteering to help others in honor of someone who has helped you in an extremely rewarding and fulfilling way to live your life.