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Unsung Hero: The Girl in Rags

Joined: 1/26/2015
Posts: 1
When I try and think of someone who I deem a modern-day hero, my mind leaps back two years, recalling a plate of pasta and a flash of red hair on a crisp winter night back in New York City.

I was barely thirteen. It was the first time I’d gone anywhere so vibrant, so alive, vibrating with the frequencies of everyone who’d ever set foot there. Small towns were all I had known. I grew up in little puddles, and the city was the ocean. By the time night fell and the air turned sharp as an icy blade, my mother and I were returning to our hotel. It was then that I spotted someone wrapped up in a worn-out blanket lying by the door.

I stopped in my tracks as soon as I saw her face. Her eyes were shut tight, as if in slumber, but her body shivered like a small twig in a great storm. She was adolescent and quite beautiful, with long eyelashes and red curls that fell like curtains over her petite shoulders. Her clothes looked as if she’d worn them her whole life.

A word: homeless.

“Shannon,” my mother called.

Her voice startled the girl. She jolted up from her spot, staring at me with large, wide eyes, and a raised brow. Pure terror.

Then came a low rumbling sound. She was hungry.

I made a decision. I left and returned with a plate of pasta an hour later, courtesy of room service.

“For you.”

As her eyes met the plate, her surprise melted away. Her plump lips stretched into a wide grin. “Oh, thank you. Thank you so, so much.”

There was a scuffling sound that came from the alleyway nearby. A flash of eyes. The girl stood up, kicked off her blanket. She disappeared into the alley. Hesitantly, I followed.

It was a little boy, maybe five or six. He looked as ragged as she. The girl handed him the untouched plate immediately, and he wolfed it down. When we left the alley, I had to ask:

“Why didn’t you eat a little? I don’t know if I can get you any more...”

She just shrugged and smiled tenderly. “I didn’t really think about it. It’s enough, anyway. Go warm up. Bless you.”

I was astonished.

Just then, I thought:

This girl… is the most beautiful person I’ve ever met.

And it wasn’t because of her long eyelashes, or her red hair, but the way she had given up a meal in the midst of hunger thoughtlessly, and the way she smiled at me with all she must have gone through. In her current situation, left with no bearings, she was a beautiful soul trapped in tragedy—

A song unsung.

But she was a hero to that boy, a rare brand of selfless. And that night, she sung out her song in defiance, even if no one was there to hear. I’m lucky to have caught an echo.

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Comment by thiegsr

Joined: 11/6/2008
Posts: 702
On behalf of the entire editorial board, I would like to congratulate you for your Unsung Hero essay being selected as one of our top 10 teen essays for our January writing contest.

To view all the results of our January 2015 contest, please check our winners page on or after February 28th:

Our editors are voting on the winners and we will have our results completed by Thursday.

Thanks for adding your voice to our mission “Changing the World . . . One Story at a Time” and feel free to share your accomplishment with the world.

Rebecca Thiegs Co-Founder and Education Consultant
Posted: Monday, February 16, 2015 2:45:56 PM
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Comment by thiegsr

Joined: 11/6/2008
Posts: 702
Our results are in for the January 2015 teen essay contest. Your essay came in 2nd place. We have two participating authors this month, so we are pleased to let you know that we have a signed copy of a book to send you as your prize. We will be contacting you via your registration email for details.

Thanks for sharing your beautiful story with, and feel free to share your accomplishment with the world.

- Rebecca Thiegs
Stageoflife Co-Founder and Education Consultant
Posted: Wednesday, February 18, 2015 6:44:02 PM
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