Liz Murray was born on September 23, 1980, to poor, drug-addicted parents. They were both addicted to cocaine and heroin and would sell anything, including a donated Thanksgiving turkey, to buy their drugs, even if Liz and her older sister were starving. Liz states, “My sister and I would eat ice cubes, just because it seemed like eating. Sometimes my parents, my sister and I would share a tube of toothpaste for dinner.” When Liz was 15, her mother died of AIDS and they buried her in a wooden box. Her father moved into a homeless shelter, leaving his daughters to take care of themselves. Her older sister found a friend to live with, but Liz was not so lucky. She took to the streets of New York, stealing food and sleeping on park benches. She had dropped out of school because the kids made fun of her dirty-smelling clothes. When she had been on the streets for two years, she said she had an epiphany: it was now or never – she could live like this for the rest of her life or she could go back to school. With no real education or anything else going for her, a social worker helped her get into the Humanities Preparatory Academy in Chelsea. Upon her arrival, she announced that she would do the classes in two years instead of four. She was still homeless during this time and often slept on the subway system at night, just going wherever it went until it was time for school the next day. She graduated in two years, just as she said she would, and received a college scholarship for college. Where did Liz want to go? Harvard! Harvard accepted this bright girl that had literally gone from homeless to Harvard. She is now an inspirational speaker and has traveled all over the world. And her older sister? She also went to college and is now a teacher for autistic students. Their father died in 2009 of AIDS.
Everyone likes to hear a story of someone who has triumphed against the odds. It gives us all hope. When we lose sight of hope, life becomes a difficult endeavor. When you take your first conscious breath every morning, let your soul flood with the hope of the day and never let it fade away.
May the stars carry your sadness away. May the flowers fill your heart with beauty and may hope forever wipe away your tears – Chief Dan George-