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Texas Center for the Book

Letters About Literature Essay Contest 2003
Level Three Winner
Isela Cervantes
Willis High School, Willis

Dear Mr. Lars,

"One man's trash is another man's treasure." I didn't know how meaningful this expression is until I read a short passage on dumpster diving from your book Travels with Lizbeth.

I began my junior year of high school taking an English dual credit class hoping it would prepare me for college; but what I didn't expect was for it to change my views and appreciation of life, especially on the first day. My first assignment was to read a short passage from your book Travels with Lizbeth. As I began reading, I started to recall all the faces of the homeless that I had seen up to that point in my life. My views of the homeless had recently changed since an acquaintance of mine had told me that the homeless made much, much more money than we could imagine. "Some people even make up to a thousand each day," she said right before my jaw dropped to the floor. I didn't know if it was true, but I could picture it. After that, I no longer felt the sadness and pity I had for all the homeless and began to feel sad only for those who are disabled or at least make an attempt to make some money by working for it or selling newspapers on the streets.

Before I read your inspirational story, I never understood where or how a homeless person became homeless. I would always ask myself what happened to their families or wonder if no one gave them a chance to work for food. I never did find correct answers to thse questions and would usually forget about them until I saw another homeless person completely different from the day before. It taught me to value more my daily routine, life, and even the sandwich I make when there is, what seems to me, no good food left in my house. I respect your courage to live a life of dumpster diving and your intelligence of taking the time to write down what life was like. I don't know if it was your intention to write a book that would change the way a sixteen-year-old like me thinks, but it did.

Another valuable lesson I learned was that the objects needed to live are more important than sentimental objects. Many times when gift giving, either at a birthday or during Christmas, I debate if I should give something useful like clothing or sentimental like a bracelet. I would usually lean to the bracelet and buy it since I believed the bracelet would remind the recipient of the memories of everything that happened the day they received it. With your story I realized, that memories are ours to keep and that a bracelet does little good if there are not clothes on one's back.

Most of us seldom think of the homeless or the hungry when we're eating at a restaurant, complaining how tasteless the food was, pushing our plates back with fifty percent of the food still there. There are others who don't realize that the apple they threw in the trash, with a bruise on its left side, is like heaven to a little boy or girl who would probably taste such a thing once a month if he or she is lucky. I would like to thank you for opening my eyes to notice those who are less fortunate and for making me think twice every time I throw something away. The next day I walked into my English dual credit class, I felt like I was a completely different person and I now look at my world and the world you wrote of through different eyes.


Isela Cervantes

© The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. (Used by permission.)