‘This I Believe’

Essays from Boston students on life and hard lessons learned

November 28, 2010

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THE FOLLOWING excerpts are from essays that students at Excel High School in South Boston completed as part of this year’s WriteBoston summer writing class. The students were asked to write about a personal belief — a take-off of Edward R. Murrow’s “This I Believe’’ series of the 1950s that has recently been updated by National Public Radio.

Thien Tang
NO ONE is 100 percent perfect. Many people have perfect appearances, but inside they may be very evil, jealous, and ridiculous. Geniuses are not always intelligent or perfect; they have some ridiculous mistakes that people should laugh at . . . Back in Vietnam, when I was in ninth grade, I had an excellent math teacher. Every time I had troubles with math problems, my teacher used his teaching skills to have me understand.

One day, my teacher gave us the hardest math problem on the board that would be counted toward class work. When I found out the answer, I handed in my notebook to my teacher. With no reason, he shouted at me that it was a “wrong answer,’’ but I tried many times and I always got the same answer as before. I bravely talked to my teacher, and then he was so embarrassed of this situation, but he was very proud of me, for telling him his mistakes.

Anissa Booker
I BELIEVE that people die because God had something better in store for them.

As I was growing up I grew a great appreciation for basketball. I loved basketball so much because I loved my brother, and anything he did I thought deserved my complete attention. I knew one day he would be known as one of the greatest basketball players in the world, and I’m sure he thought the same.

One night my brother and I got into an argument because I wanted to go with him to his friends’ house, but he wouldn’t let me. My brother claimed that I was way too young to be going out at this time of the night. Being the little girl that I was at the time I said the only three words I knew would make anybody feel hurt, which was “I hate you.’’ As I said it I knew that it wasn’t my heart talking, but it was the pain I felt from being rejected. My brother also knew I didn’t mean it, but that didn’t stop the pain and hurt displayed upon his face. That night I cried myself to sleep.

While I slept my brother was hit by a drunk driver and dragged 30 feet by the tires of his bike. Paramedics said he died on the scene but they revived him. He became paralyzed from the neck down and couldn’t breathe without an oxygen tube.

My brother died a couple nights later. I was so heartbroken that I stopped believing in God and even many times said I hated him because he took one of the most important people out of my life.

But my grandmother comforted me and let me know that my brother Paris was taken from me because God needed him for a much bigger cause. My grandmother told me, “Baby, stop crying and be thankful that Paris is in a place where he doesn’t have to suffer anymore, and whenever you feel like you start missing him terribly just know that he’s always in heaven watching over you.’’

This experience made me feel that if I could go through the pain of losing not only a family member but my best friend, then I can go through much more.

I believe we all die because God wants us to enjoy the lavish lifestyle in Paradise. This doesn’t stop the sorrow I feel in my heart as I reminisce about that disastrous night. But no matter what, Paris will always be in my heart, no matter how far away he is.

Elliot Briggs
I BELIEVE that one person’s mistake is another person’s correction. . .

I remember a tragic mistake that my friend, Wesley, made when I was a child. It was a hot August afternoon when my friends and I decided to go bike riding in the neighborhood. As we were strolling through the neighborhood, we came across this long steep hill. The hill had a massive drop that made it look daring to ride.

All of us were tempted to try the stunt. Our goal was to complete the stunt perfectly. My friend Wesley was the first to try. As Wesley accelerated down the steep hill on his BMX bicycle, he made a mistake and hit the brakes for the front wheel. The bicycle flipped over and tumbled down the hill while Wesley fell on the slope face first. His face was covered in blood and he was screaming in pain. We took him to the hospital where he was treated for severe face injuries.

Wesley’s mistake on hitting the front wheel brakes while attempting this stunt was a lesson for my friends and me. We learned that it was dangerous. Although Wesley was badly injured, my friends and I were still determined to compete this stunt. As I approached my goal, I reminisced on Wesley’s mistake and knew not to hit the front brakes. Instead I hit the back brakes which took me down the hill in a slow pace. I achieved my goal easily, thanks to what I learned from my friend’s mistake.

Phoung Le
WHEN I came to America, I was 17. I was hopeful about this new country with a new life, new things. But I didn’t know that it was difficult things waiting for me. I always thought I was mature, but in fact I was not.

Three months after arriving, I had a new job as a manicurist. That was the first time I went to work to make money, and it was not as easy as I thought because the customers were very hard. They always had many requests, and I had to meet what they wanted. Sometimes I worked hard but couldn’t earn the amount equal to the effort I did.

Then I went to school in tenth grade although in Vietnam I was a senior, and difficult things started happening to me. When the teacher lectured, I couldn’t understand or say anything or couldn’t answer their questions. Some of the Americans laughed at me and I felt that deeply. I was very sad. It affected my study results a lot. I felt tired and lonely in the new environment. I started to miss home, old friends, and my native language.

Then next year came, and everything seemed better for me. I had new friends and we usually would go shopping or watch a movie together. I could understand and talk to teachers. I also participated in programs after school hours, and that made my life more interesting and busy. That’s good for me because as I now work to gain experience in life, I can learn and understand new things, and improve my English a lot.

Phung Le
MY FAMILY’S religion is Buddhism. When I was a young child, my mother instilled in me the belief that that if you make good things, you will receive good things. I lived my mother’s teaching. I tried to do good things to become a good child. However, I lost my belief at one period of time.

When I was in elementary school, I made friends with a little girl who was my first best friend. I devoted all my innocent friendship to her. We had a lot of memories together. I remember that she jumped rope beautifully; about me, I was not clever to play, even though I liked this game. Her family was poor, so I shared my food with her in lunch time, and she often shared sweet candy with me. I was happy to respect this relationship. But one year, when we rose up a grade, she had another friend. She left me alone and sad. In time, we met each other randomly in the hallway, and her look passed over my face as swiftly as a wind. She looked at me as a stranger and did not know me. . .

I spent days and months with no friend, no fun, no memories through the rest of my elementary school. My heart was covered by a freezing winter. I had not any best friends from that time. Fortunately, one day a new friend come to warm and refresh my heart and mind. I do not forget the first time that I met her, also on a first day of school.

As I came to the middle school entrance, I felt strange and anxious, and I was late. The school gate was shut firmly and I only knew to watch it. Suddenly, one hand touched my shoulder from behind. I turned around and looked at a girl with a smile like a bright sun. She said to me: “We are late. Do you want to enter the school with no need to pass over the gate?’’ I was surprised, and nodded my head. She took me to the fence behind school and told me to climb up. I was both happy and afraid of this action. Then we were safe to go to class. Luckily, I was in the same class with her.

We became best friends, and we complemented each other. I was taciturn, while she was funny; she always chatted with me. In the rainy days, if I forgot an umbrella, she lent me one because she said that she was stronger than me. When I was sick, she wrote new lessons and taught me understandingly.

I wondered, why she was good to me? I bravely asked her and she responded with an answer that took me back to my mother’s teaching in childhood: “I treat kindly with you, you will also do the same for me.’’

Thanks to my friend, I returned to believing this miraculous teaching.

Niyema Boseman
I BELIEVE in equality. Therefore, I think no one is higher than anyone else.

For many years gay people have been looked down upon and denounced by government, family, and society. It is time to fix the division and mend the broken relationships. Having pride parades and gay support groups has really helped and impacted the gay community acceptance in America. With equality there is no group of people that are unequally treated. There is an equilibrium.

I still have supporters, even though some family members don’t agree with my views. It is upsetting. However, I know that I can only live for me, not for them. I am strong and I know right from wrong. It is a struggle everyday, but I have other family behind me. I would like to have my parents’ support, and hopefully I will have it one day. It takes time.

I believe in equality and that’s what I strive to be: equal everyday. Equal in society, government, and my family. Equal in the eyes of God. One day they will all understand, and see me for me. Nothing is different, I’m still the same person I was before I came out. I just have a little twist which makes me unique.