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Weekly Writing Challenge: In An Instagram


Marilyn does not know this, but on the day I saw her sitting in a cold, folding chair in the homeless shelter, she changed my life.  She is a mousey, brown-haired, sophomore, who I later learned, comes to the shelter every Wednesday with her mother and her little brother.  She carries everything she owns in a beat-up backpack including her schoolbooks and pens.  After dinner is served, and the tables are cleaned, Marilyn gets right to work.   She spreads her notebook and her World History book out on the table and pretends that the rest of us do not exist.

My first night as a volunteer in our community shelter was eye-opening and humbling.  All the preconceived ideas I had about the type of people who frequented shelters were blown-away after ten minutes in the place.  Marilyn’s story was the most life changing.  One of my fellow volunteers shared what she knew about this young high school student with me.

It seems that Marilyn’s father died, and their house was foreclosed upon shortly after his death.  With no skills and no means to pay for the house, Marilyn’s mother moved the family in with her relatives.  When that no longer worked, they began moving from shelter to shelter every night.  Knowing that having a good education leads to better opportunity, Marilyn’s mother pushed her to keep up with her studies despite the circumstances.  Therefore, every evening, Marilyn and her family enter a community shelter, they eat dinner together, and she works on her studies.

Her classmates at school do not know that she showers, sleeps, and eats breakfast at a homeless shelter every day.  They do not know that sometimes Marilyn does not have the comforts of a TV, a phone, or a computer.  There are times when items such as clean socks or sanitary napkins are not available for this young girl.

To say that Marilyn is admirable is more than an understatement.  She is the epitome of words like courageous, determined, and invincible.  The things that she overcomes every day to be an honor student would break most people, but she perseveres.

Sometimes, we find heroes in the most unusual places.  I found mine in a homeless shelter.  It is my hope that Marilyn will finish high school and receive a scholarship to college.  A few of the volunteers at the shelter  pooled their resources together to help Marilyn and her family.  They found a permanent residence and even have had a fundraiser to help finance Marilyn’s college education.

I owe Marilyn much gratitude for changing my outlook. I clearly was ignorant.  I imagine that after you read this story, it will change yours, too.

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Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jamie Nowinski – Grandmother Wisdom/Grandmother Musings with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About bigsmileu1

What good is living life if you don't share all the experiences, mistakes, and knowledge you have gained? I am a grandmother, a wife, a mother of two grown children, a Jr. High Teacher for almost two decades, an elementary principal and I want to share my experiences.

10 responses »

  1. There are remarkable people out there, Marilyn is one and she will go far in life.

  2. I love your post
    Thanks for doing it
    So much goes unsaid

  3. This is such a moving story and a reminder of how much I have to be grateful for. Lovely post.

  4. I am so glad you found her! Very moving!

  5. A heartfelt story and I would imagine there are many stories of the same nature…God bless those that help them the best that they can….We all need to do more..Diane

  6. Thank God for her great courage and determination to study. Thank you for sharing the story!

  7. Thank you for the beautiful and inspirational story!


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