Lizzy, Age 14, Ohio, USA

Time is an interesting thing. It moves more slowly when you want it to speed up, it moves too quickly when you want it to slow down. It ages you, teaches to forget. It makes your bones creak, and gives you wrinkles around your eyes because time wears them out, and forces you to squint. Time is a strange, mischievous thing, and often we wish we could stop it, or change it, but time is unchangeable. Time is constant. Time is part of who we are, and nothing can change its effect on us.

When I was born, the world cried. Rain poured from the sky, drenching everything, and shedding an oppressive cloak over the country side. Flashes of lightening streaked and darted across the heavens, mocking us in our tears. People cried with it as they watched their possessions float away in horrible floods. Their dreams and plans followed and they cried in rage and anger at the sky their clothes soaked from the water, and their eyes wet with tears. Hopes were dashed on the rocks, like a rowboat in a frothy sea, but in the dark corner of a damp street a woman heard her baby's first cry.

I was homeless from the day of my birth. The flood that had brought me in had washed away the plans for my future. My father was crippled by falling beams, and in his weakness, died of pneumonia days later. Mother and I were forced onto the streets, with most of our neighbors. The climate was harsh and cruel, and for a year, the flooding continued. Many drowned in the unrelenting downpour. Many lost a loved one, but I started a new life.

Mother called me Chira, an ancient word meaning blessing. She said I was her blessing in a time of horrible trials. For years we lived together on the flooded streets, for the water never really disappeared, and scratched out a simple living, until one day my mother died.

She was weary, she told me, weary of life, for she had held on for so long. Her soul could not bear to remain any longer, but it would ache for me when she was gone. I cried when she died, sad that I could not afford to bury her, sad that I was now alone, and sad that her journey was over, as mine had just begun.

By the time I was sixteen, I had gained a place in the slums of what was once a beautiful, prosperous city. My ragged garments were no obstacle to my making friends, and I surrounded myself with kind and loving people. The streets seemed kinder than they had those years after mother had left me and the tears that had so long moistened my eyes finally dried, clearing my vision of a new picture or what life was, and with this vision came a desire to live my life like an adventure.

“Chira, darlin’ why are you starin’ out at them boats? Ain’t you got no work to do?” the deep voice of the tall imposing woman echoed through the narrow alley, a basket hung from the crook of her arm, and a poorly woven straw hat hung from a strip of cloth down on her back.

“Some day, Auntie,” I whispered, my voice filled with awe of the beauty of the majestic ships floating through the harbor in front of me. “I’m gonna be on one of those ships, and I’m gonna see the world.”

“So you shall child, so you shall.”

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