Anne and I met the first day in college. Her room was next to mine, and within a month, I was sleeping in her room more than my own. The next year we lived together again, and then later we moved into the stereotypical, (slightly) shady, post-college neighborhood in Minneapolis. What amazed me about her, is that she’s always keeping others in mind. The perfect ying, to my over-bearing yang. In college she dealt with my home-sickness, gave blood at every drive, remembered every birthday and volunteered for the local woman’s abuse organization. Luckily, she’s as smart as she is generous, because now she’s going to grad school to provide support to families coping with the possibility of genetic disorders in their babies.
EF: Is generosity a nature or nurture trait?
AH: Both. I would say that it is mostly cultural. Going to other parts of the country than the Midwest, I feel that growing up it always mattered to be nice and friendly, whereas in other parts of the country keeping to yourself is a matter of safety. I think that generosity stems from the safety of the Midwest and our corresponding belief system – that everyone deserves respect and kindness.
EF: What are the downfalls of being considerate to others?
AH: Consideration is not always returned, and generosity can be abused. But, I don’t know that there truly is a downfall to being considerate. I absolutely hate laying awake at night and knowing that I treated someone badly. My biggest regrets in life come from being inconsiderate of the feelings and mindset of others.
EF: The most frustrated I’ve ever seen you was after continuously trying to donate, but being denied because you’re iron was too low. Why is it so important to give blood?
AH: Part of that was pride – I hate failing. I also feel that it’s my duty to give blood because it’s something I can give freely that may actually make a difference.
EF: Do you have someone you look to for inspiration?
AH: When I think about my friends, and I’m sure it’s the same for you, you know how angry you get when they are mistreated. I think that’s an inspiration. Everyone is loved by or loves someone. I also think of my grandma. She is the sweetest, most selfless person that I know, and she really does make the world a better place and always puts others first.
EF: What is the place of compassion in your philosophical ideals?
At the forefront. I can’t believe how fortunate I am, and who my parents are and who I was allowed to become. I seriously feel that something crappy has to be coming along because of how lucky I have been in my life. Why isn’t everyone as lucky? Why do some people lose everyone they love, have horrible diseases, or become physically disabled? People get dealt a lot of crap, and compassion is central to my notion of humanity.
EF: If you had extra money for charity, how would you donate?
AH: To EVERYTHING! It would be hard to choose. The animal cruelty commericals with the sad Sarah McLaughlan song playing make me want to rip my eyeballs out. A lot of money would go there. I also feel like as a country we need to treat our elders far better. They deserve to live their final years in peace, comfort, and love, and should have as much independence as possible. I would want to build places where age is celebrated and people could live out their final years happily, instead of horrible nursing homes (although there are nice ones, too). Losing my grandpa was hard because I saw what hospice was like, and it can be awful. It needs to change.
EF: My family dealt with that this year too, and I saw how it took a toll on everyone. The hospice was like a breathe of fresh air compared to the nursing homes down here.
What are some things we can do on a daily basis to live a compassionate life?
Small things. When someone smiles at me in a hallway, I feel better. When a door is held for me, I smile. People just need to cut the crap and act decently to each other. If you see someone who needs a hand, give it. I saw a man on the sidewalk today who asked me a question, and I didn’t realize that he was asking for money until I was down the street. It would be easier if we didn’t care what people think, and I wish I would have been brave enough to have gone back and given him a couple bucks.
EF: What is the biggest injustice you’ve ever seen?
AH: I see tons of injustice because it’s the nature of our world. I hate it. I think of my grandma. She took care of my grandpa for the last 5 years of her life and sacrificed herself and her loves for him. It’s not that she didn’t love him with her whole heart and didn’t want to help him – it’s just that she lost a piece of herself. After he died, she was able to reclaim her life…until her cancer returned. She had been diagnosed about two months before he died, but they surgically removed it and told her that it was all gone. Then, she wasn’t feeling well, and it turns out the cancer had spread throughout her abdomen and lungs. She wants so badly to live, and now she knows that her time left is pretty limited. I absolutely can’t bear the thought of losing anyone I love, and it kills me. I’m angry at the doctors, but mostly I’m angry for her. She’s been through enough.
EF: You seem to have a knack for being there for your friends, most especially for me when I was going to go to my uncle’s funeral and you surprised me with a care package of all my favorite foods. Perfect, since I had barely eaten all week. What are other ways you’re mindful of your friends and their needs?
AH: I try to remember that everyone has deep feelings, hopes, and dreams, and I try to attend to those. I think small things matter. Listening is powerful.
EF: What activity makes you most happy?
AH: Spending time with my family and friends. I miss everyone all the time.
EF: Who do you admire most in the area of music?
EF: Who do you admire the most in the area of design?
AH: EVERYONE. I can’t design worth a crap, and anyone who makes the world a more beautiful place is truly appreciated.
EF: Where do you want to be right now?
AH: In Ames, as a 17 year old girl.
EF: If you could give someone advice, what would it be?
AH: Be kind.