Friday, February 17, 2017

"Thanksgiving" by Cadence Sinclair

It was Thanksgiving, perhaps my favorite holiday of them all, and my house was a warm haven of flickering candles and clinking dishes and ringing laughter. My best friend, Helena, was eating this meal with me and my family for the first time ever, but she became seamlessly stitched into our little world, if only for the few hours that she sat on that chair in our dining room, passing the butter, the green bean casserole, telling us another story of her trip last summer to China. People spoke with gentle amiability as they gave their reactions, shared memories, complimented my mother’s simple, but delicious cooking. I experienced a lovely, magnificent dinner that I swear was straight from a movie, but the truth is that, reflecting back on that day as a whole, I feel only sadness and regret. Allow me to explain.

After we had consumed as much as our stomachs could bear and spoken enough about times when Helena, my sister, and I were in elementary school and engaged in such innocent backyard adventures -- catching lightning bugs, spinning in circles until we fell to the soft earth, kicking our flip-flops over our neighbor’s fence just to act like undercover spies on a dangerous mission -- we filed out of the dining room and into the kitchen to help with the cleaning-up process. But my mother, ever the unselfish soul, shooed us, claiming to not mind such an activity at all. Thus, my dad, Lydia, and Helena migrated next to the T.V. room.

I lingered in the kitchen, however, my mouth agape at how many leftovers we had -- leftovers, meaning little traces of our picturesque gathering only moments before, crumbs and slivers of perfection. This must be shared, I thought, my mind made up, my memory already conjuring images of needy humans I had seen out of the corner of my eye while rushing through the streets of a city with my family, in great detail while at the Metro station awaiting the train, even across from me while studying at the computers of Reston Regional Library. I then remembered that right outside of Herndon Fortnightly Library always sat a man, alone and homeless. I resolved to to bring him food -- turkey, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, apple pie, pumpkin pie -- and explained this resolution to my mother who had been looking at me strangely as I put heaping serving after heaping serving onto several plates and then covered these plates with tin foil.

After slipping soundlessly out the kitchen, out the front door, and to my car, I drove the ten minutes to downtown Herndon with classical music on in the background, feeling pleased with my decision to have a moment of benevolence, of being a do-gooder. I parked my car on the eerily serene and empty street in front of this brick palace of books and more books and made my way over to the sheltered area, my hands full with the plates of Thanksgiving staples. In a yawning shadow, amid dozens of trash bags, was a human being with a thumping heart and shivering, crumpled, skeletal body, tangled hair and skin covered in dirt. He was utterly innocent and vulnerable in that nook. Anyone could have come and stolen his possessions, but something told me that no one ever desired to or would.

I passed the plates to him, saying “Happy Thanksgiving,” my voice sounding too high-pitched, the words floating on the silence and looking too shiny, too fake. The man’s hands accepted the offering with quickness and strength. He then smiled a smile I had before encountered -- wholly grateful, with traces of incurable sadness -- and whispered almost, but not quite inaudibly, “Thank you.” These seconds cut me to the core, for I detected a fundamental hunger in him, something food alone could never satiate. He was deprived of so much more than protein and vegetables. Family, love, a home, a sense of purpose in life -- these were surely things for which he was hungry and could never manage to grasp.

I muttered, “You’re welcome,” and then scurried away, feeling perplexed by the emotions stirring within me, awakening from their years-long hibernation. Back in my car, with the engine off, the silence enfolding me like a blanket, I became disgusted with myself, the way I was wearing a fancy dress and cardigan and planning to drive away in a nice car that I, a mere seventeen-year-old, ought to not have. I did not ask what his name was. I did not keep him company while he ate this meal that was not Thanksgiving to him, but rather nutrients to at least temporarily quiet a rumbling stomach, scraps offered by a timid stranger.

Whom was this act of kindness truly for? Him or myself?

I did genuinely care, but that was the problem. I was struck with the unsettling realization that these tiny acts, although momentarily comforting, were ultimately futile unless I addressed the root of the issue, unless I recognized that this aching piece of humanity did not deserve to merely decay in the shadows of a library entranceway.

I finally put my key into the ignition and drove home, not bothering to break the silence by turning on the even the classical music station. Such music made me feel . Instead, I drove slowly, pensively, wondering about that man’s childhood. Had he grown up in a tiny, insalubrious apartment with a single mother or father who drank away the pain? Or had he been fairly lucky in his early years and had a spacey suburban house to roam around in, two parents with names like James and Susan who financed piano lessons and read stories to lull him to sleep?


When I arrived back home, my hands felt like numb, useless things, so I wept into my mother's shoulder. She murmured, "We can't fix everything." True, I suppose. But when I am older and my hands are more capable, I vow to help at least that man rebuild his life. He needs a world in which he smiles his wonderful smile not rarely, but every day. He needs to be able to feel a sense of contentment and belonging while doing something as simple as passing the butter. Imagine -- it is Thanksgiving, perhaps his favorite holiday of them all, and his house is a warm haven of flickering candles and clinking dishes and ringing laughter.

"Who Wants to Go for a Walk?" by Wayne Bow

Lexie and I started out
The sun was rising just above the jagged tree line
The pink and orange sky looked like explosions frozen in the sky
We walked on the cracked and icy path into the woods
The snow of the previous night made everything look like it was covered in powdered sugar
The something came over Lexie and she laid down in the snow and refused to get up
“Why now?” “Why me?”
A gale of wind chilled my bones
I begged and I pleaded, I pushed and I pulled
I felt cold, really cold. The full essence of the word. Nothing in my body felt over 32 degrees
Out of the blue, a stick cracked in the void of the woods
Lexie’s legs slowly began to extend
Her ears perked up and her eyes zeroed in on the noise like a submarine hunting a warship
Crack, crunch, crack, crunch, crack, crunch, crack, crunch
I knew what was about to happen
I dropped the leash
Whoosh
I watched her charge forward
For a second I forgot we were walking and that she was my dog. I was just watching the pure instinct
The beauty of nature and how she worked
Snap.
I came back to my senses and I walked forward to Lexie starring up a tree
Picking up the wet snowy leash in my near forst bitten hands made them begin to smart and burn
We were off again
I led her through the dormant trees and the pure white surrounding us get me a feeling that I was in heaven or a higher place
Everywhere it was all white
I felt like Dumbledore was going to appear
Wuouououuo
Another gust of wind ripped through the trees
Tears dripped down my eyes and froze on my jacket
Seemingly oblivious Lexie walked with her head high
Nothing nature could throw at her would defeat her spirit
I saw the light at the end of the woods
Finally the end
I picked up my pace
Step.
Step.
Step.
Slip!
Thud!
Ow!
All the air rushed out of my lungs
I couldn’t breath
Tears rushed from my eyes
Pain erupted on my bottom
Everything was leaving me
Just then I felt something cold and wet on my cheek
I blinked the saturation from my eyes and saw a black nose and a golden face staring at me
I lifted off the ground
The next 5 minutes felt like a blur
Lexie led me down the hill past the suburban houses covered in snow
The sun bounced off the snow into my eyes
A yellow tint filled my eyes
All of the sudden I found myself grabbing the door handle
The heat overcame me with a feeling that I have never felt since

I looked at Lexie and I knew that I would have to go back out there

Friday, February 10, 2017

“Pink Hats, Rainbow Signs, Energy, and Kind People” by Holly Jo McClelland

I bolt out of bed at 5:45 am.
Today is the day I get to make history,
I say to myself.  
Well, today, and every day that follows.  
That thought is motivation enough.  
I dance downstairs to the kitchen.
I eat my breakfast.  
I'll need my strength today,
I think.  
It has been two months and twelve days
Since Zombie Morning.  
Positivity is back.  
I get dressed.
I carefully pin on the sash I made the night before.  
The front side reads, “RISE UP.”
Each letter a different color of the rainbow.
Because love always wins.  
The back side is a list.
An enumeration of all the women
For whom I will be marching today.  
Each name a different color of the rainbow.
Because love is love.  
And I will march for everyone.  
I run my fingers down the list.
I don't know how I got so lucky
To have such strong, inspirational female role models in my life,
I ponder.  
Anyhow, I am glad I do.  
I cannot wait to think of them all today.
I hug my parents.
They are excited, too.
I begged them to let me march today.
I think they are proud.  
We hop in the car.  
We drive to the metro.  
The roads are flooded with cars
For so early an hour on a Saturday morning.
I like to think they are bound for the march, too.  
The metro station is packed to the brim.
It is full of pink hats
Rainbow signs
Energy
And kind people.  
I snap a photo of a group of women from Michigan.
They tell me how much they love my sash.
I thank them and beam.  
The train arrives.  
The doors open.  
I think to myself,
New Year’s Eve in Times Square must be something like this.  
Swarms of women
(And men, I note happily)
Are packed inside.  
I just barely squeeze myself in,
Pulling my parents behind me.  
There is no room to breathe.  
But I don't mind.  
Oddly enough, I like crowds.  
Especially crowds like this.  
I talk to a woman and her daughter
From Mobile, Alabama.  
They tell me the tale
Of their long-but-worth-it road trip
And how excited they are
To be here today.  
The march has not yet begun.
I am not even in the city yet.  
Still, for the first time since the election,
I am comforted.  
I am not alone.
I knew that, of course.
But here is living proof.  
Finally, the turbulent train ride slows to a halt.  
Foggy Bottom.
This is it.
Mom, Dad, and I hold hands.
We force ourselves through the masses
And onto the platform.
We wave at the train
As it starts to move again.  
Everyone on it waves back,
Flashing thumbs up
And grinning broadly.
I am filled with hope.
I skip up the escalator
And out into the street.
We aren't yet at the epicenter.  
Mom, Dad, and I walk towards the mall.  
Passersby wink at me.  
I wink back.  
On our way,
We meet a girl and her mom
From St. Louis,
Also bound for the march.  
Their passion is beautiful.  
We approach the mall.  
It is a horde of yet more passionate people,
Waving posters and banners
And chanting in excitement.
“THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!”
They holler.
We join in.  
It is true.  
We push our way through the masses.
I look around.
I am in complete awe of the scene.  
T-shirts and signs reading,
“Women's rights are human rights”
“March like a girl”
“Nasty Women unite”
“Stronger Together”
“Love Trumps Hate”
“We all make America great”
And more still
Abound.  
I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes
From the musical “Hamilton.”
“This is not a moment, it's the movement,”
Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote.  
How much those words
Meant to describe the stirrings of the Revolution
Ring true in today’s America.
I am part of this movement.
I am so grateful.  
I look over at my parents.
We take hands again.
We take a step forward.

We march.

"Friends (I Like School)" by RaeKwonThaChef

I know this may sound strange to a lot of people, and trust me, I’m sure I’ll look back in a week or so and think to myself, “Are you kidding?” but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway; I like school. Now, before anyone has any remarks, let me clarify: I do not like tests! I don’t like writing essays, science fairs, or assigned seats. Did I mention TA? I especially dislike TA. I value school for something that I think we all take for granted; the people who we every day.

AP Chemistry is probably the hardest class I have ever taken. So much information, so many worksheets and practice problems, and an AP Exam that inches closer every day. On Wednesday, I had my fourth chemistry test of the year, and I had been studying since Saturday. On Tuesday, my teacher was hosting an after school review in his classroom, and I felt that it was for my best interests to go. Surround by my fellow AP Chemistry classmates, we went over what would be on the test and what to review. However, throughout the hour and a half discussion, I noticed something. The class was constantly cracking jokes, making fun of each other, and having a great time, despite the huge test tomorrow. I was amazed.

Sitting in my chair during the review, I pondered on this idea. Here we all sit, knowing that we all have homework or practice later (in addition to the huge test tomorrow), yet we are all laughing and having a great time, care free. I was in awe, and then I thought. I thought even though how much we all hated exams and deadlines, we all stayed together because, well, each other. No matter how tough my day has been, no matter what grade is marked in red pen on my test, no matter the few hours of sleep I got the night before, I know there will be someone there to make me smile, to make laugh, to reassure me that everything is going to be alright. It’s something we all take for granted.

Yes, we all know school can sometimes suck, but I feel like we all sometimes forget how much it can rock. Almost all the friendships and relationships we have established between one another have been sparked by those same yellow buses those, the same student pledge, those same damn PRIDE cards. That’s the value in them. This brick building on 700 Bennett Street in Herndon, Virginia, has been the origin of an infinite number of friendships. So many memories have been created here, so many great moments forged into thoughts, so many relationships that will never be forgotten.


So I sat at the desk in AP Chemistry, reminding myself of how a greater number of electrons lead to greater polarizability thus stronger London Dispersion forces, which you know of course, exist in all covalent compounds. But I also reminded myself of the people around me, how much I value them, how much they value me, and how much I’ll miss this classroom in only one and a half more years.

Friday, February 3, 2017

"Dear Em" by Your Big Bro

Dear Em,

As you make your way through your remaining three years of high school, you will experience many pleasures as well as hardships that come with being a teenager. You have seen the ups and downs Molly and I have both experienced while trying to find ourselves and, as a parting gift, I wanted to share with you the hardest obstacle I have had to overcome; change. Change seems to be forced upon us and accepting change can be difficult. From small transitions, like having different teachers every year, to adjusting to major differences, like life in college; change is hard. I equate change with being different, and as teenagers that is scary.

Something as simple as getting my haircut made me feel vulnerable - like everyone noticed me. In the last two years I have learned to welcome change, which has helped me grow. It was a slow process, but it has made me stronger and more confident.  

The best advice I can give you is to welcome change and take chances. Switching from baseball to track was tough, but track allowed me to meet new people and on top of that, I worked hard, lost weight, and even got an award.

I can tell that change scares you too. If you can learn to embrace it, like I have, then it may be a catalyst for you to become more self-assured and outgoing. It may even be the best part about being a teenager for you too. We are both nervous about me leaving for college, but trust me, embracing this change will help us grow and become stronger. I hope that while I’m away you will learn to greet change with a smile because it can do wonders. I love you, Em.

Sincerely,

Your Big Bro

"Revolution" by Emily_Fairy1432

Revolution. In history class, we hear about so many different revolutions that the word “revolution” isn’t given a second thought. Well, now that you’ve heard it so many times you’re probably thinking about it a little more. Now I have to beg the question, what does it really mean? According to Dictionary.com, revolution is defined as “a radical and pervasive change in society and the social structure, especially one made suddenly and often accompanied by violence,”. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to disagree with Dictionary.com to a certain extent. I do believe Revolution can be a change in society, but I also believe it can be a change within an individual and can oftentimes be paired with no violence at all. Revolution, whether it’s within one’s self or within a society or nation, is difficult to uphold, can be used for good or bad, and most importantly of all, makes people stronger, makes a nation stronger, makes the world stronger - revolution is a heavy weight just waiting to be lifted.

You may often hear people say, “A big weight has been lifted off my chest”. This is exactly how America felt once the revolutionary war was over. They knew the revolution was something that needed to be done for the strength of the country, for the perseverance of the country, and for the existence of the country, but it was tough and it was a long and enduring process. During the time period of the Revolutionary war, there was a man named Benjamin Franklin. Franklin is most known for his experiments with electricity, one in particular involving a kite and a key. Other than his incredible discovery of electricity, Franklin wrote a guide, per say, of how to live a full and pure life. He wrote of thirteen virtues one must possess to truly live the way one is supposed to. This “guide” revolutionized himself and lifted the weight of living immorally off his chest. Franklin could be considered one of the faces of revolution.

One may often even compare lifting a weight in a gym to revolution. It takes a lot of effort and may hurt at first, but in then end it makes the individual stronger and more prepared to attempt the next heaviest weight.

Everyone has had some type of hardship in their lives, a weight on their chests that they feel like they just can’t lift. Personally, I have had to try to lift one of the greatest weights anyone could have to lift and it’s a pain I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. When my father died, it felt as if the entire world was crumbling down and falling on top of me piece by piece. He was more than just me father, he was my mentor, my coach, and my inspiration. The man who was supposedly always going to be by my side to help me through anything and everything I needed no longer was. Everything changed the minute I woke up and he didn’t. My future changed, my mom’s future changed, and his future sure as hell changed. Even though it was the worst thing that could ever possibly happen to me, I had to learn to change myself and my lifestyle to get through this. Now, three and a half years later, I am stronger. Have I completely gotten over it? No. How could I? But piece by piece I am lifting this weight off my shoulders and revolutionizing myself and my life