Thursday, January 26, 2012

Homeless to Harvard

The injustice we do to people when we label them, even while well intentioned is harmful. Before I return this book to it’s owner I must commend the author on her story and her life. Liz Murray is the author of Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and my Journey from Homeless to Harvard, a story of a harrowing childhood in a home plagued with mental illness and drug abuse. She became literally homeless and a student who was truant, defiant, and lost. She pulled herself up by her proverbial bootstraps after the death of her mother, enrolled in an alternative school (while still homeless) and was accepted to Harvard in spite of all this and more. The teachers at the alternative school inspired her but gave no slack (knowing nothing of her living conditions); while several teachers at her prior high school who did know some of her trials and tribulations felt sorry for her and nudged her along.

She said that when she was labeled as truant or a disciplinary problem “I saw failure in their eyes, then I was one….capable, then I was capable.” Even well intentioned teachers who “saw me as a victim-despite (her) good intentions-that’s what I believed about myself, too.” (p. 286) She dropped out of high school in her sophomore year while being labeled a victim, after nursing her mother through her last dying days. She returned to school, homeless, and overcame so much.

She did not let the label, victim of unfortunate circumstances, become a self-fulfilling prophecy. She graduated from Harvard in 2009 and today is a motivational speaker and runs a company that helps others fulfill their destinies. A truly amazing story of a truly amazing woman.

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