Written by Chet Marszalek
Ever since September 11, each of us has seen a surge of people caring for others with acts of kindness and even self-sacrifice. I would like to introduce you to one very special person.
Ashley Powell is a 17-year-old young lady who attends Galena High School in Galena, Ill. She is in the special education program there.
Ashley has spent at least three hours each day after school and 10 hours on each of two Saturdays walking the streets of Galena.
On Saturday, Oct. 6, the rain and the cold could not stop her. Armed with flag decals, buttons and a money jar, she approached people on the streets on downtown Galena asking for assistance for those who were victimized by the attacks on September 11. In all, she collected just under $1,000.
She placed the money securely at the Fig Leaf, a boutique owned by a dear friend of ours who allows Ashley to use it as her home base.
You may wonder what makes this any different from similar acts of kindness and caring. Well, I'll tell you. Ashley knows what it is to hurt, to feel lonely, to be abandoned.
She, like others like her, only hang on the fringes of the social life her peers enjoy as a freedom.
Social functions and an after-school job are only dreams. Ashley was fired at two employment attempts because she didn't measure up.
Ashley suffers from ADD (attention deficit disorder). She was a "hydrocephalus baby." She had a brain bleed after her three-month-premature birth that almost took her fragile life. Like the cold and rain, this would not stop her either.
Medical science has given many children lives that 25 years ago never would have existed. There are thousands of children like Ashley, outcasts of society who have a special gift we need to use as an example for our lives.
If you ask Ashley why she cares for others and does what she does, she probably will tell you, "Because Jesus would do it."
It is her faith and unconditional love that drives her. She may not measure up to a corporate standard, but few can measure up to commitment when it really counts.
Ashley and broken children like her are an inspiration for our family. I am proud to be her step-father. She is my hero.
Chet Marszalek, his wife, Paula, and their two daughters, Ashley and Kendall, are members of First Congregational UCC in Dubuque, Iowa.