By Riley Sanders

I was lucky enough to spend my childhood encompassed by neighbors who loved me, and even luckier to live right next door to my best friend. We met when he moved into the neighborhood around second grade, and we were seemingly inseparable for years. I spent plenty of nights and even more days sitting in the house about ten yards away from my own. As the years grew on, his parents became like my own and my parents say I spent more family dinners at their round table than with my own parents. It’s all a distant memory now; it feels like a dream, but I still remember the happy days we all shared.
   Things began to head downhill at the beginning of high school. Even though he was a foolish highschool boy, my friend still picked up on the tension in his home and it affected his outlook on life. I remember, at one of our infrequent lunch “dates,” my friend told me his dad was suffering from depression, but at the time I didn’t think much of it. I wish I had. Our families saw each other less and less, until one night when I walked outside and had to hold up my hand to block my eyes from the ever bright lights accompanied by the scream of sirens. The ambulances next door were blocking the roads, and people were rushing back and forth frantically, as if to find something they’d lost. That day, we were all lost. My friend’s dad’s harmful lifestyle had caught up with him, and I ran over only to see his lifeless body sprawled across the floor.
   Life wasn’t the same for the whole neighborhood after that night. We were all abruptly reminded of the brevity and delicacy of human life. We continued on with our daily lives, but the days went by quickly as we all tried to make the most of the immeasurable moments we had left. Throughout time, I have come to realize that life is brief but, moreso, I have come to see how interconnected human life is. With the loss of a life comes a community of mourning which inspires changes in the monotonous day to day tempo of life. We all live our lives differently, even if just for a moment, because we are scared that we won’t make an impact on the world in which we live.
   From that day of literally looking death in the eyes, to now, I try endlessly to make the most of the time I can with the people I’m surrounded by. Though it’s cliche, I aim to live a life of no regrets. I want to look back on the days I spent surrounded by love as happy memories, not painful ones. Life should be celebrated. Relationships should be celebrated. I am young, but I had to witness something a year ago that I hope no one else has to see. I still deal with it today, but I try to use it to fuel kindness and forgiveness as opposed to pain and anger. That is the purpose of life, not to make an impact on the world, but to give enough that maybe, just maybe, we can make life better for our neighbors.