90: Do Good

90: Do Good

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

Do Good

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

~Dalai Lama

It was time to pack up and move out on my own for the first time in my life. I was scared to death.

I was headed to Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and had spent the entire summer preparing for this life-changing event. Change was never something that I handled well. Just before graduation, each student in my high school’s senior class was required to present a “Senior Speech.” This speech was to be the culmination of everything we had learned during our high school career. I cried through every single speech and was a blubbering fool during my own. I spent every moment of my summer vacation with as many friends as I could, for fear of never seeing them again once we parted ways for college. I had a breakdown every few weeks about leaving home, and couldn’t imagine life without my family and friends.

During these breakdowns, my dad was with me every step of the way. He listened to my fears and comforted my tears. I remember countless walks through the neighborhood with my dad in which we discussed what I would do when I finally got to college. My dad had visions of me partying it up with new friends, but I had visions of sitting all alone in my dorm room.

Moving day quickly arrived. We made it to Moravian College without any major problems and for a few hours I forgot about all of my worries. I was having fun setting up a new room, getting to know my new roommate and exploring a brand new campus.

But then came the time for my family to go back home and leave me all alone with an entire school full of people who I didn’t know. I was crying, my mom was crying, I’m pretty sure I saw some tears in my dad’s eyes, and maybe even in my brother’s. We were strong however, and they made a quick getaway so as not to upset me any more than I already was. My roommate and I spent the rest of the day doing Freshman Orientation activities and I was feeling pretty good by dinner time. I had met some nice girls on my floor and two girls that my roommate knew from high school.

As I was climbing into my bunk bed that night, I saw an envelope sticking out from beneath a box on one of my shelves. I grabbed it and took it into bed with me. My name was written on it in my dad’s handwriting. As I opened the card, I began to cry once again. My dad had written a chronology of all the memories that he loved about me. He also wrote how proud he was of me for making it to college. He assured me that I would have a great time there and also wrote two simple words at the very end of the note that have since become my life motto: “Do Good.”

That’s all he asked of me — “Do Good.” Not, “Get On the Dean’s List” or “Stay Out of Trouble” or “Don’t Waste My Money by Flunking Out in the First Semester.” Just, “Do Good.” I knew that was something I could handle.

A new chapter of my life had begun and even though it was scary, I knew that all I had to do was try my best and I would make my family proud. It was also a chance to go after my big dreams. And boy, did I pursue my dreams that first year of college!

I have since graduated from college and I continue to dream big dreams, but they have gone from dreams of that cute boy in class and that cool frat party across campus to dreams of scoring a high-paying job and buying a house of my own. I still cherish the card that Dad gave me and take it out from time to time to remind myself of how two simple words gave me the courage to overcome my fear of being out on my own, and instead have one of the best years of my life.

~Jennifer L. Cunningham

More stories from our partners