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Nikki Jee/New University

I was having one of those “I-don’t-know-what-I-am-doing-with-my-life” kind of moments a few months ago. Except this time, it didn’t last a moment. I wasn’t depressed by any means; I was simply frustrated with the routine of my life.

It’s normal for college students to feel this way — to get lost in the regimen of things, only to realize they are stuck in it. Instead of letting the feeling pass, this time I decided to do something. I’ve often been told, as you have, that you can help yourself by helping others, and volunteering can allow you to do that.

Truth is, I’m not much of a “volunteer” type of gal. It’s not that I don’t like helping people, but I take pleasure in a sort of spur of the moment kind of thing. As in, helping out the homeless man who was a couple dollars short of a meal, or the elderly woman in the wheelchair who couldn’t reach the milk in the market, or the crying baby at Costco who I exchanged funny faces at for a laugh and smile. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time.

I remember those moments vividly, maybe because I felt pleased with myself to be of service to someone in need. They were good moments, moments I’ll never forget.

I was looking for that feeling again or something like it, I suppose. I became restless and was aching to be of good use to someone or something in this big world. One evening, while sitting at my neatly organized desk (which I organize when I feel like my life is out of order, which happens a lot), I decided to browse through Zotlink through the UCI Career Center website. I came across Karate For All, a program started by Wayne Centra, an occupational therapist and black belt martial artist who is dedicated to assisting and teaching karate to children and adults with special needs as a form of therapy. From autism, cancer, brain tumors, to cerebral palsy, Sensei Wayne is willing to work and teach anyone who is willing to try. Karate For All was looking for volunteers to help with teaching and assisting students in learning. My first thought was, I don’t know a thing about martial arts. I continued to read on. My next thought was, well, I’ve never worked with children with special needs. No problem again! You just need to be patient, understanding and willing to learn.

I went to Karate For All located in Tustin and I watched as Sensei Wayne enthusiastically began class. I watched the children, all dressed in their karate suits bow down before entering the mat in the dojo. These kids, who are singled out in school because of how they look or because of their uncontrollable awkward movements, all dressed the same, Here in the dojo, they were happy. They were happier than I was, for goodness sakes. Some of these kids may not live to next year, some will never be able to live a normal life, some who will spend hours and hours at the doctor’s office, but all who will need some kind of assistance for the rest of their lives – were happy.

There I was watching, pathetic me — frustrated, ungrateful, whining and complaining over a future that only God knows anything about. A future that I am not even promised. In the fall, I volunteered a couple hours a week to those kids. I helped them do their kicks, when they weren’t sure if they could. I helped them stretch their fragile legs, I helped them put on their sparring gear when they struggled, I encouraged them to talk when they were shy – I helped them. But really, all that time, those kids helped me.

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