Common app free writing prompt, Write about anything you want?

Would you ever drop everything – your time, your friends, and your family – to serve other people? To be completely honest, I never thought I would. But somehow I found myself on the beach in Samos, Greece. I unlaced my high tops and placed them on the decaying wall that extended into the Icarian Sea. I was ready to immerse my bare legs into the piercing clear water.

Tangles of weeds were intertwining on the shore, as I scanned the beach I found a young man filling trash bags with the brush that had plagued the shore. I was curious, why was this man cleaning up the beach when it has no immediate benefit to him? So I approached him and asked where all of the debris came from. He explained that the muck was free floating weeds that had gathered up from the tide crashing in. He then went on to tell me he lived in the tiny first floor apartment that sat on the beachfront. I asked, “How did you find yourself living in Samos?” He told me he came across Samos while he was on break from his job in the UK. Turns out he was a teacher and advocate for people in refugee camps, fleeing from strife in their home countries. I was stunned that on his break from hard work, this man was burning his bare knees on the sweltering, sun soaked sand. So without thinking, I volunteered myself to help. I left my friends wading in the crashing, nearly acidic salt water, as I ran to put my beat up converse back on my sandy feet. He kept repeating that I didn’t have to spend my time helping him, but I insisted.

At first I began helping him shovel weeds into the boiling, black bag. As soon as we finished our first pile, one of the adults from my immersion group told me I wasn’t allowed to talk to strangers and that I had to leave. But their rules couldn’t to stop me from helping. I began to scan the beachfront, my eyes searching for clumps of weeds to collect on my own. As I found my first pile of brush my eyes were pulled towards the pieces of plastic planted in the brush. Once I picked up the first area, I couldn’t stop. I spent 3 hours scanning the shore for trash. At a certain point I reached a restaurant that was riddled with plastic caps and glass bottles. In front there were four young kids playing with sticks as if they were swords. I walked past and continued to pick up trash.

As I wandered further, I heard their swords smack and splinter over the harmony created by the rhythmic flow of water. On my way back a little girl from the group game up to me and handed me a piece of trash she had found for me to put in my bag. It was shocking to think that my simple actions had taught a young person how to take care of the environment. I said ευχαριστώ, which means “thank you” in Greek. She smiled at me, and as I looked into her eyes as blue as the water behind me, I saw how my instinctive actions had made an impression on her mind. I said my goodbyes and returned to the group, recreated through the simple moment the swimming pool of God had brought to me.

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