Fear, Redefined.

This week’s class and assignment kicks off our collection for school supplies. We are going to be sending letters and emails to our personal friends and family, because these are the people who want to see us succeed in our classes. After all, collecting these school supplies is a part of our grade. One thing came to my mind after this class: Fear.

A typical shipping box we will be filling and a sample collection box. (Photo by: Shelby Register 2012)

We are each being asked to collect ten boxes of school supplies. We are using a large flat rate shipping box from the U.S. postal service to ship our supplies to Afghanistan, and we will be making various boxes to serve as drop-off points for the collection. The boxes we will be shipping measure 12″ x 12″ x 5-1/2″ which means that each of them have 792 cubic inches of space to fill up. We also learned that each of these boxes can hold up to 1,152 pencils. Basically this means that I alone am responsible for 7,920 cubic inches of space and 11,520 pencils (If I were only collecting that supply. I will, of course, be taking other things too). 11,520 pencils? I am just one person. I barely have 200 facebook friends, how am I supposed to turn that into 11,520 pencils? I was afraid. I was afraid of failing at this project and I was afraid of failing this class.

A box packed with pencils and crayons. (Photo by: Liisa Hyvarinen Temple 2011)

Then, I thought of a different type of fear. The kind of fear I would have if I were an Afghan child. Even in the United States, we know that the best jobs mostly go to those who have higher degrees. Afghanistan is based off of the same principle, except that even an “elementary” or “junior high” education leads to a higher chance of getting out of poverty. Last week SMSgt. Rex Temple shared with us that of the 36 countries he’s visited during his service, Afghanistan is, by far, the poorest he’s ever seen. If I were one of these children (especially because I am a girl), there would be no guarantee that I would get to go to school. Even if education were an option, I might not have school supplies. Many of these children go to school under trees with scratching in dirt as their only way to write notes during class. Imagine the pressure you would feel to remember the day’s lessons without being able to write anything down.

Fear is knowing that my family’s livelihood rested on my ability to learn. Fear is forgetting what we learned the day before because I didn’t have any paper for notes. Fear is watching your chance of getting out of poverty slowly slipping away.

When I realized that, I stopped being afraid about this project. I have no right to be afraid. I live in a country where education is a right. I live in a country where I can have opinions, and share them, without repercussions. I live in a country where loaning a pencil or pen to someone in class is no big deal, even if I don’t get it back. It was selfish to have fear. Instead, I now look forward to the joy that will be on the faces of the children when they get the 10 boxes that I know I will fill.

The chaos and excitement that ensues when supplies are given out. (Photo by: Rex Temple)

My version of fear was superficial. Now, I see that the definition of fear is a whole other thing entirely.


About Shelby R.

Shelby Register is in her third year at the University of South Florida. She is pursuing a Bachelor's of Science degree in Chemistry and is participating in the Honors College program. After her graduation, she hopes to go to medical school. In her free time, Shelby likes to volunteer, travel, watch the Food Network, and try out new recipes in the kitchen.
This entry was posted in Afghanistan, Awareness campaigns, Charity, Education, School Supplies for Afghan Children and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Fear, Redefined.

  1. Beth Gaddis says:

    Thank you for reminding us of what’s important.

  2. Candy Olson says:

    Shelby, You are a wise young woman! If you want to teach in the K-12 system, there is a job for you in Hillsborough County.

  3. Shelby R. says:

    Thank you both for your kind words and support!

    Ms. Olson, if my aspirations for medical school fall through, I might take you up on that!

  4. Pingback: From Fear to Triumph to Hope | School Supplies for Afghan Children

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