Wednesday, May 14, 2008

a defining story

I watched "Homeless to Harvard: the Liz Murray Story" tonight.

It was inspiring - yes. Mind-numbingly depressing in the beginning. . . Liz Murray, a real person, has/had drug-addict parents who effectively leave her to raise herself. She ends up on the streets - her mother dead of AIDs, her father (also with AIDs) in a homeless shelter - but finally goes to school, and wins a New York Times scholarship that takes her to Harvard.

It was her "story" that got her the scholarship in 2000. In 2003, before she graduated, the movie of her story was done. The memoirs of her story were published in 2005 - don't know if she'd graduated yet (do know that she left Harvard and returned to NY to "help care for her father" and enrolled at Columbia. Thereafter, it appears she went on the speakers' circuit and speaks - you guessed it - on her story.

Young girl overcomes tremendous odds and spends the rest of her life talking about it.

Somehow, there's something missing in that formulation of a story. I wanted to know what she did at Harvard; what she studied; what she aspired to. I wanted to see her old life transformed - left behind. I wanted to see her step out of the old, into something - not just to get out, stop, and then endlessly rehearse the last step.

"I got out; you can too." is a great message, but "got out" to do what?! Is just the 'getting out' enough to get you going? Not for me it isn't.

It's as if her story ended before her life did. That's one of the saddest things I can imagine. But maybe she will move beyond this part, and do something with her life, whether or not we ever know about it. I hope so.

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