From Homeless To Harvard: Endurance Makes Success 從流浪到哈佛

Written by Charmaine Lim, Girls School 10th grade

Sometimes, when I walk down the streets of a big suburban city, this is what I can see; people who wander aimlessly down the streets because they have nowhere else to go. They wore ragged or ill-fitting clothes; they had tired looks on their faces because of distress from life. They don’t have a roof over their heads or a decent bed to sleep in. They would usually smell bad, look dirty, and have an outstretched arm holding a stained, chipped Starbucks cup, asking busy and well-dressed passersby: “Spare some change?” Passersby like you and me would, most of the time, just brush them off as soon as you saw them through the corner of your eye. One may think, “How could someone living that kind of lifestyle probably go to a school like Harvard? Like if they could get through high school at all!” But in the movie From Homeless to Harvard, Elizabeth Murray made it. Through this inspiring movie, it occurred to me that a lot of lessons can be learned and used in real life. While on the other hand, it relates to Buddhism.

In the movie, Liz has parents that are strongly addicted to drugs. They never had much time to care for her. She had to know how to care for herself throughout her whole life. No one, basically, was there to look out for her. She learned to be strong and independent. This is what we have to learn in life because we have to stand strong in our life when crises arise. When we grow up, we have to care for ourselves just like Liz, without our parents around to take care of us all the time. Independence is something we must learn at some point of our lives.

Besides, what I really admire about Liz Murray is that she has the spirit of the grass. Even if she is broken, she stands up again and again no matter what the circumstances are. Drug-addicted parents including a loving but incapable mother and an indifferent dad, poor living conditions, homeless, shattered childhood and adolescence, all of these has not stopped her from going on. Even though she has to sleep on the subways at night, beg on streets, sometimes even use five-finger discounting from stores, she strives to survive in the big, cold cemented forests of New York City. She believes in herself and finishes four years of high school in only two years’ time, becomes a top-ranking student in the process of all this hard work. Thus she earned herself a scholarship from the New York Times to pay for her expenses to go to Harvard. Her whole life is then ignited by different colors like a burst of fireworks into the midnight sky – all darkness is expelled!

Another thing that I learned from her is she has a big love for her family. One dialogue that really touched me and made me tear up is when she told the New York Times, “It doesn’t matter whether she betrayed me for a thousand times or a million times. I love her.” The “she” was referring to her mother. She never blamed her parents for being drug addicts nor being incapable of to taking care of the family. She never even blamed them for not putting dinner on the table. I can relate to her because even though my mother has bipolar disorder and a lot of times hurt my feelings unintentionally; I never hated her for that. I never did before and never will. I learned forgiveness from Liz because she never blamed her father for being uncaring. I do, however, blame my father for his quick temper and fists that threaten to fall on me if I was disobedient. Love is a double-edged sword, it may hurt if not handled properly and I have to learn how to forgive from within.

This film can be related to Buddhism and virtue when Liz expressed Filial piety for her parents. She takes care for her incapable mother who has HIV without a word of complaint. As aforementioned, she does not blame any of her family members but expresses her love for them. When she finds out her sister inherited her mom’s blindness, she gives the sister a reassuring hug. Next, she has the integrity to work for what she wants and never gives in to any challenging circumstances, unlike her friend Chris, who said that people like us do not belong to school. Liz did not let this comment pull her down but tries her very best to triumph. Law of causes and effects can also be associated with this movie, because when Liz put in effort to achieve her goal, she gets the effect of that hard work – one reaps what one sows as Buddhism explains it. Even though she was born in a destitute environment, she never complains but endures and persist her efforts, she changes her whole life. This illustrates what the Buddha taught us – karma is created by the mind and can be changed by the mind.

In conclusion, I find depth in both Liz and myself through this movie, and understand that success does not come easily and we have believe in ourselves that we can do it. The reason why the phoenix is the king of birds and has feathers like the colors of vibrant fire is because it can handle the severe heat of going through a flame-bath and that is why every bird envies and respects phoenix. Success is found through hard work, if a person learns to endure and never give up.



中譯:林慧宜〈培德女中10年級〉     蔡幸臻〈培德女中11年級〉

有時候,走在繁華的大街上,我看到一些流浪漢漫無目的的在街上遊走。他們衣衫不整,臉上也因為生活的壓力而顯得疲憊。他們不僅沒有一個替他們遮風擋雨的歇腳處,更沒有可以令他們好好休息的床。身上的異味,令他們看起來尤其骯髒,有時他們還會露宿街頭並向腳步匆忙且打扮的光鮮亮麗的路人伸出手,遞出一個有污漬的星巴克塑料杯:「有零錢可以施捨嗎?」他們總是這樣問候。人們通常都會閃速的瞄一眼後,就對他們視而不見。我們心裡可能會想,過著這種流浪生活的人有可能上哈佛大學嗎? 他們連完成高中學業都有困難吧!不過在《從流浪到哈佛From Homeless to Harvard》這部電影中,伊麗莎白·瑪瑞做到了。從這部充滿啓發性的電影中,她成功的證明了自己,除此之外,這部電影也和佛理息息相關,也讓我學到了很多能應用在日常生活中的知識與道理。




這部電影和佛學有著極大的關聯,伊麗莎白不只孝順父母,無怨無悔的照顧缺乏自理能力的愛滋母親,她也從不將命運歸咎其他家庭成員,取而代之的是用滿滿的愛和關懷來面對逆境。當她發現了姐姐遺傳了母親的眼疾,她不捨的給了她一個鼓勵的擁抱。另外,她從不向厄運投降,而是發憤圖強,為了自己的未來奮鬥。當她的朋友——克莉斯,告訴伊麗莎白像她們這種流浪漢是不屬於學校生活的時候,伊麗莎白沒有讓這番話影響她,而是盡心盡力的朝著既定目標前進。電影裡也呈現出因果報應,當伊麗莎白注入了所有的努力達到目標時,她得到了回報,這是一分耕耘,一分收穫的結果。也是佛教中說「種瓜得瓜,種豆得豆」的現世因果。 雖然小時候很苦,但她不埋怨,堅強的心念改變了一切。這也說明了佛陀的教導——業由心生,業由心轉——的道理。