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I found a key,
That unlocks a treasure chest, 
Is it empty? 
Or is it filled with jewels and diamonds, 
Silver and gold?

The key was hidden 
But now it is in front of me, 
If only I knew, 
Just what the chest holds.

The key sits in my hand, 
Slowly warming with the heat of my heart, 
The choice is mine. 
Do I take this key, 
And open the chest now? 
Or leave it, 
For another time?

I found the key, 
That unlocked the treasure chest. 
This key of gratitude, 
Unlocked the treasures of my soul. 
The treasures are jewels of, 
Happiness and joy.

Gratitude is the key. Every meaningful experience, person, thought, and idea that I have had, heard, or seen always ties back to gratitude in one way or another. This is the best piece of wisdom that I could ever have the pleasure of sharing with humanity. Yes, it’s true that there are other ways to be “happy,” but to truly stay happy forever requires gratitude.

I believe this deeply because I have experienced it first hand. Any time I come back from engaging in some sort of service, my heart is always overwhelmed with happiness. It’s because helping others through the hardships they may face makes you feel genuinely good about yourself. That’s why I started my own service project and charity–to help others and therefore help myself in the process.

But what many of us don’t understand, and what I had to learn myself, is that putting labels on people and things doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t matter in my opinion.

When you put labels on and then judge people and things, it takes away the true meaning from happiness.Oh, this person is “bad” because they are living on the streets, and this person is “good” because they have lots of money.

By doing this, you block your path to feeling happy. You’re unable to feel genuinely good because, no matter how wonderful a person may be, all that ends up being important are the labels and judgment.

“I found the key, that unlocked the treasure chest. This key of gratitude unlocked the treasure of my soul. The treasures are jewels of happiness and joy.” All you need in life to be truly happy is gratitude. When you are in your state of gratitude, you will always have joy. And, by helping others less fortunate than yourself, you will really be helping yourself in the end.

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Zara Singh was born in Chicago, Illinois and now lives just outside the city in a suburb called Oak Brook, Illinois. Zara is a student at Butler Junior High School and is 12 years old and in the 7th grade. Zara has always been active in community service, especially after having participated in Northwestern University's Civic Weekend which exposed her to the poor conditions in many Chicago schools and homeless shelters.

In the summer of 2010, Zara read the book Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, which is a true story that follows Mr. Mortenson as he visits a small village in Afghanistan and thereafter begins building schools and libraries for children across the country. Zara's belief was that there were many schools and children in Chicago that faced similar challenges and that could benefit from having access to books and libraries. That's when she formed Project Books in Need which seeks to collect books and donations to help underserved Chicago schools and neighborhoods build library collections. So far, Project Books in Need has nearly completed a library collection for the Passages Charter School in Chicago which serves immigrant and minority students in the north side of Chicago. Zara and the advisors to Project Books in Need are currently reviewing other schools for their next project.

Zara has always loved the quote from Gandhi "Be the change you wish to see in the world" and believes that if we all just take one action a day we can truly make a difference. 

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