Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Abigail Dizon


I was told that cardboard boxes are better than tents because they don’t trap heat. This is what Marlene, a homeless woman living on Skid Row, told us when my cousins and I gave her an extra box of water bottles that we had stored in our garage. I can’t say that giving out a $2 box of water bottles made a huge imprint on the lives of the homeless but I can say that this experience made a huge imprint on me.

The suburb I live in is more like a bubble- an ignorant bubble. It’s not everyday that I see people propping their tents up on the street or begging for extra scraps of food at the corner shop. That’s why every time I visited Skid Row, it was like opening my eyes. It didn’t open my eyes to pity or disgust, though. Rather, It opened my eyes to how real and tangible these people are.

Whenever we realized we’d overstocked on goods like water bottles, our initial reaction was to give them out to Marlene and other homeless people in Skid Row. That one day in particular, Marlene was sitting in her regular spot writing on a piece of cardboard with a pen. After exchanging greetings with her, I asked what she was writing and she handed her piece to me. At first, the torn piece of cardboard looked like a jungle of sentences without any context. When I actually started to read it, I realized they were made up of a collection of uplifting phrases. She told me that she had these words written down to shout to the bus driver that periodically stops by her spot. When the automatic door opened near the driver’s seat, Marlene would shout out a phrase from her wide range of sayings off the cardboard for the bus driver and the passengers coming off to hear. Her sole intention, despite many critical looks, was to brighten the days of others.

Her simple words spoke to me. When I got home that night, I thought about Marlene a lot. I thought about how even though I couldn’t do much to help her living situation, I could do my best to pass on her kindness.

I’m not going to write about all of the aspects of Marlene that I would like to mimic in my everyday life because that would not fit into a 500 word essay. However, I will say that that one afternoon of hearing how she spreads positivity to those around her despite her undesired situation shaped my life today. I now find myself thinking of all the opportunities I have to be a better person and what I can do to spread positivity in my own life. Whether it be expressing altruism to others or simply passing on a smile, I know that I have the potential to shape someone’s life the way Marlene shaped mine.


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