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When I was 10, my biggest concern in life was making the soccer team. My best friend Joie’s was saving the environment.

When I was 15, I spent sleepless nights wondering if my new crush would ask me to the school dance. And Joie . . . well, she would spend sleepless nights telling me about the inequitable state of our society.

When I was 22, I was knee-deep in my first career with my sights set on conquering the world of journalism. Joie joined the Peace Corps and boarded a plane to Namibia, Africaher sights set on changing the world.

When I was 23,  Joie died in a tragic car accident in Namibia. When a light as bright as Joie burns out, it is often difficult to describe her to those who never knew her. I wondered how I would ever be able to share her impact with the rest of the world and how I could ever be enough in a world where people like her ever existed.

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When I was today-years-old, I was having breakfast with my 14-year-old, who is struggling, like many eighth graders, to find his place socially. Moving to a new neighborhood in the final year of elementary school and starting middle school across town in the COVID years has made him feel like that irregular shape trying to squeeze into the circles of unbreakable bonds. It’s been rough. Like, I mean really rough. On his compassionate and sensitive heart. And mine. 

We got to talking about life. About friendship. About the people who make us feel like the coveted cherry on top of the sundae, and the people who somehow convince us we are the soupy ice cream at the bottom of the bowl that no one wants to eat. He usually feels like the soupy ice cream. 

But then, mid-bite of chocolate chip waffle with too much whipped cream, there was a pivot. He told me he has someone. And even though it’s just one, it is one who he trusts. One who makes him feel like he’s more than the hurtful comments he hears about who he is from people who don’t really know him at all. One who his vulnerable heart feels may be by his side for the long haul. 

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And it’s in moments like those that my friend Joie’s impact hits me like a ton of bricks. It’s the realization that we all just really need one person. Just one. One person who gets us. Who might be so different from ourselves and at the same time makes us feel like we are enough. One person who can help cover us from the storms around us and the ones we create within ourselves.

When I am tomorrow-years-old, I hope every person can find their Joie and be the Joie to someone else. We all deserve the power of one.

Originally published on Fallen Peace Corps Volunteers Memorial Project 

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Amy Keyes

Amy Keyes is a middle school teacher and freelance writer in St. Paul. When she's not cheering too loudly while spectating at her teenagers' sports, she's running, working out, binge watching recommended series on tv, or hanging out with her dog.

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