Melissa: Her Compassion Filled Life

By Jeremiah Thompson

Melissa Schill is someone who has led what may seem to others as a normal life. Similarly to other classic families, she grew up in a Christian household and continues to live those Christian values in her daily life. Her life may seem like any other normal life, one that anyone could relate to, but that is not true. Everyone has a story, and Melissa’s is just as interesting. 

Melissa has always lived in Illinois but has moved around within the state. As one can imagine, moving isn’t very easy. Moving for Melissa, however, was a different story. She moved right before middle school, at the age of 13, leaving some close friends behind. But Melissa stated that since it was between elementary and middle school, that move wasn’t so bad.

After the move, Melissa’s mother made a decision about her education. Instead of joining a public middle school Melissa started homeschooling. Her mom really hated the concept of middle school due to teenage angst felt by those of that age. Instead, her mother used that time to ground her in her faith and teach her valuable life skills like cooking and cleaning. As Melissa puts it, she used that time to “have intentional time to be with the Lord.”

Melissa: Finding Her Hobbies

During this time, Melissa began to realize some of her passions. While growing up, her parents introduced her to dance lessons. The classic imagery of young children wearing pink tutus and that would be similar to what she did when she was younger.

Melissa didn’t stop dancing when she moved before middle school, however. She continued dancing in what became her mother’s dance studio. Even though her mother didn’t instruct the dancers, she handled the business aspects of the studio.

Melissa’s kindness flows through every interaction that she has with others. She constantly states that “every person has a story” and she lives that concept in her own life. In every conversation people have with her, they are struck by how good Melissa is at listening. Even when she disagrees with you, Melissa is always happy to listen to your side.

Personally, I have very strong opinions. While talking to others, I tend to use my own experiences to show similarities between my life and theirs. Comparatively, talking to Melissa, I found myself talking much more about myself than I intended to.

Experience With Compassion Journalism

Melissa pointed out, during my interview with her, that her empathy has been tempered and developed throughout her life. Her parents fueled that kindness through many experiences, including through their family trip to Nairobi. For every child Melissa’s parents had, they sponsored a child in need of the same age.

Despite only just entering high school when Melissa went on that trip, her heart reached out to those of different backgrounds. All the news coverage that talked about third world countries, however, always seemed so negative. Melissa stated, “If it bleeds, it reads.” What she experienced during her time there was something different. Melissa discovered a form of journalism new to her: compassion journalism.

With compassion journalism, a person can write about the beauty of life. In direct contrast, look at the mainstream news of today. I once heard a joke that news reporters start with a good evening, then end with all the reasons why it’s not. Despite the cynicism this joke conveys, it seems to ring true for news media.

Compassion journalism is not all about negative news at all.

Melissa began to learn more about Compassion International, a nonprofit organization, after encountering them in Nairobi. Especially impressed by Compassion’s belief that “It’s important to uphold the dignity of the poor,” she strives towards journaling that shows dignity.

Compassion For Others Made Clear

Emma helps to shine further light into Melissa’s passion for compassion journaling. In my goal of understanding Melissa, I interviewed her roommate Emma Sawyer. As a classmate of Melissa’s, along with also being her roommate, Emma interacts with Melissa a lot. Therefore, due to their time together, Emma had a lot to say about her friend. The only things Emma had to say about her roommate were all positive things.

“She always talks about how she thinks everyone has a story to tell. Even being in the room when she is interviewing people…in general she is, in life a really good listener. She cares a lot about what it means to tell people’s stories well and with integrity.”

Emma Sawyer

She isn’t the only one with words of high praise for Melissa either. Other members of Zoe’s Feet–a dance club at Wheaton College–praise her leadership skills. As Emma mentioned during the interview, Melissa always “cared about making sure that things are done…to the best of her ability.” Melissa’s kindness, along with her determination, assists in her abilities as a leader as well.

Eager to Grow

Melissa isn’t perfect of course. She has something else that matters, a willingness to grow. Additionally, she is always working towards improving herself in dance, journalism, faith, and everything else a busy life has.

Furthermore, Melissa’s empathy and compassion allow her to understand and listen well. These skills will continue to serve her well as she faces the challenges ahead and develops new relationships.