Global Harmony Through Personal Excellence is a small organization here in the Washington, DC, area, run by a very close and loved friend of mine with the support of volunteers. Its mission is to support the expression and humanity of children. I give money every winter to this amazing initiative. It includes both an essay contest where children write about their personal experience – last year they had participation from 29 schools in the DC area and it provides Christmas gifts to families in need, many of them homeless, through Community of Hope. Everything they receive goes directly to support the families and the essay contest.

Of course, I support larger, national, and international initiatives as well. For example, I always put some money in the Salvation Army’s basket. When I was a child my family was very poor. The Salvation Army helped us. We depended upon them for some of our necessities. Every time I drop a bill into their basket I am giving back to an organization that was part of my childhood, helping my family when it was in need.

That said, I think it’s important to give locally, to reach out to those in need who are close to us geographically. That’s why I share about Global Harmony Through Personal Excellence. Consider doing something special for people in your area. This winter there are so many who can use assistance of one kind or another.

Before you enjoy the essay below by Global Harmony’s 8th-grade essay contest winner, Peace, here’s a little background info on her:

When Peace was a baby, her mother was homeless. Peace and her mother and brother were one of the homeless families from Community of Hope who participated in the holiday event. The mom worked very hard and purchased a house last year in southeast DC. The mom is so proud to be a tax-paying citizen. In 2015, Global Harmony invited Alyce (the mom) and her family to come to their annual caroling event so Alyce could talk to the homeless moms that year to give them advice and inspiration. This year is the first year Peace has participated in the essay contest – and she won 4th place. We are so proud of her:

Near the end of 2018, my family and I were hit hard due to the city’s lousy gun laws. Both my godbrother and my older brother were struck by bullets purchased illegally from unregistered guns. My brother was lucky enough to survive and did not endure permanent physical damage however my godbrother Malik McCloud did not make it. Malik was 18 years old when my brother watched him die.

Malik was shot at 1pm in Ward 8 blocks away from the only hospital in Ward 8; the United Medical Center. Although Malik was shot near the United Medical Center (UMC) he had to be sent to a trauma center to address his injuries. While waiting for an ambulance to transport Malik to Washington Hospital Center; my brother Malachi watched helplessly as his best friend laid suffering in the cold, and instead of someone administering lifesaving techniques; bystanders watched as the police begin to block the section with yellow tape.

Although I did not witness Malik’s suffering, I was at the scene and in the hospital room when they told us they did everything they could, but Malik had gotten to the hospital too late for them to save his life. A few days later my brother purchased an unregistered firearm. I am unsure if Malachi purchased the gun because he was scared, wanted to feel safe or if he intended to retaliate. That night I remember Malachi screaming for me and my mother’s help. Malachi screams “Ma call 911” with my mother asleep, she does what he asks. We later realize he has accidentally shot himself with a gun he had purchased illegally.

All in the same week I lost my godbrother and now my brother was in the hospital under arrest with no visitors, no phone calls and he was alone. As a result, my grades took a toil and so did my mental health. I had been diagnosed with mild depressions since the loss of my father at the age of 7. Due to all of this going on I was required to go to therapy once every other week which took me out of school. Not only did the lack of school cause my grades to decrease, but it was the fact that I could not focus, nor did I want to. Just like that; Malik was gone. Malik’s death shattered our world, my brother and I have never been the same.

It wasn’t until I realized I had a voice that things got better for me. I began by using these traumatic experiences to advocate for access to better services, the use of healthy coping skills, and the importance of mental health services. I wrote an advocacy letter to my city council member Mr. Trayon White. I also led a school project to teach younger students at my school the importance of gun safety and gun violence. But it doesn’t stop there for me; I want to continue to use my voice so that these guns aren’t used as the answer anymore. I want to prevent families from having to bury a loved one due to the lack of a trauma center or a viable hospital because of their socioeconomic status or zip code.

“Sharing the holiday with other people, and feeling that you’re giving of yourself, gets you past all the commercialism.” – Caroline Kennedy