Photograph for Paper #4

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Cause and Effect Essay: Help for a Sick World

     We see it in the news every day– spoiled celebrities, over-indulged CEO’s, and crooked politicians. Everyone of them focused on only themselves with no thought of the people or the world around them. This is becoming the “norm” for our society, and is what is influencing our children. People are not connecting or reaching out to each other and our world is suffering because of it. There is a need for all of us to give back to society and try to ease the different areas of suffering that is prevalent everywhere today.

     Even as a child, I have always had a soft heart for people who are hurting or are in need. I hated when akward kids were made fun of, and I always gave money to people with their hand out. I even sat with the geeky kids at lunch sometimes because I felt bad for them.

     When I became an adult, I took for granted the things in life that make us feel happy and comfortable. I married and had kids. I lived in a decent house, had nice cars, and great health insurance. Then I went through a difficult divorce and everything changed. The comfort of my life turned into a nightmare for survival. Because I was left in a bad financial state, I lived for three years like many other single mothers in this country. I had my utilities cut off on occasion, counted change to put gas in my car, and used a calculator at the grocery store to make sure I only spent the cash I had in hand. I had no insurance for myself, so  I only went to the doctor when I was on my deathbed, and then it would set me back in bills for the month.

     Now that I am out of that situation, I am even more sensitive to the hardships that I hear people going through. Alot of people that I knew when I was suffering were too caught up in their own lives to even call and check on us. They are not bad people, they are just caught up in the pursuit of everything we are told means success. My experience made me want to be a better person for others who are in need. This is why I am pursuing a nursing degree and want to open a clinic for people who don’t have insurance or have other medical and emotional needs.

     I feel we need more people to think of others rather than strive to perfect themselves and their kids. The media needs to cover people who look like normal people doing great things for our society. Unfortunately, trainwrecks are more interesting than Mother Theresa types, so it probably won’t happen in my lifetime. I can only hope that my small contribution will somehow make a difference for a least a few. If so, then that’s all that matters.

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Description Essay: Star For a Night

    Its funny. I don’t seem to be able to remember many early childhood memories. Only a few have managed to stay stuck in my head. One such memory is an embarrassing moment from my dance class when I was six years old.

    I remember the excitement of my first dance recital. I can still picture the smooth satin pink leotard I wore over my pink tights. But my favorite part of the outfit was the sparkly pink tutu that was stiff, scratchy, and stuck out like a tire stuck to my middle.

    We had two different routines we had practiced, and the first one consisted of some tumbling exercises. I remember my stomach doing flip-flops as we walked onto the stage and turned to the audience. The bright stage lights hurt my eyes and I could feel the heat they generated warm my face. As we performed a leapfrog routine, I hopped over another dancer and then crouched in a ball with my face covered. I enjoyed the darkness and the sense of hiding from the eyes of the audience. I waited ….. and waited. Soon I heard laughter rise into the air and fill my ears. I looked up to find that my classmates were standing in line waiting for me to join them. I looked out at the audience, which caused them to laugh even more. I jumped up and took my place as my face warmed with embarrassment.

    When we left the stage, my teacher assured me that I did fine and to not worry. My parents told me afterwards that it was the best part of the show. I remember the smiles on the faces of everyone who walked past me as we left the theatre. It was confusing, but I also felt a tinge of pride for being the center of attention for those few moments on stage.

     I think the moments that seem to stay in our memories are the ones where we feel an intense emotion, either good or bad. When we are children, we don’t have the maturity to understand everything that happens to us, but we still experience emotions with almost every event. These emotions can help preserve an event for the rest of our lives —- and make us a star for a night.

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Thank You Ma’am by Langston Hughes

Character analysis:

Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones

   Let’s examine one of the main characters in this short story by Langston Hughes. Aside from the fact that we are told she is a large woman, we do not know much about her physical characteristics. We are, however, given several clues to her character and life thoughout the story. The first impression we get of her is that she is ballsy and strong. Instead of acting scared and surprised when the boy tries to take her purse, she turns and kicks him in the rear. Most women would have been at least shaken up, and certainly wouldn’t have wanted to confront their assailant. As the story continues, we are told that she works in a beauty shop, and lives in a house that rooms several other people. She apparently has the one room to herself, since it has a daybed on one side and a makeshift kitchen on the other with only a gas plate and an icebox behind a screen. This suggests that she is a hard working woman who doesn’t have much. The fact that she has possibily three last names could mean that she has been married several times, but we are given the impression that she is alone. Her actions toward the boy are not what you would expect for someone in her situation.

   It is in her words that we are given a glimpse of what motivated her to try to connect with this stranger who attacked her. We hear a maternal tone in her words to the boy when she is asking him questions. She scolds him, but takes care of him by making him clean up and then offering food. She makes a reference to God, so she is probably a spiritual woman. She hints at a difficult past and gives the impression of learning by making mistakes herself. And in the end, she gives the boy some of her hard earned money after giving him some kindness and advice, hoping to deter him from a life of crime. She comes across as a strong, but warm, woman who has had a hard life that has given her understanding and compassion for this boy’s situation in life.

How does this story relate to contemporary times?

   There are many kids who are living in homes where the parents are not around. Either the parents are working all the time, or they are just neglectful. These kids usually grow up without someone to teach them right from wrong or to make sure they are not getting in trouble. This could take place anywhere, because even kids of today want things that they can’t afford. There is rampant stealing in our schools because kids don’t feel a sense of wrongness in taking something from someone if they want it for themselves.

   In the present time, I feel that we don’t have enough people who would take the time to teach or influence someone in the boy’s situation. Everyone is running at such a fast pace and are so concerned with their own little world that I wonder if we have lost that compassion that Langston’s character exhibited. I think that we have also become more afraid because of the frequency of violence we are told about in the news. Most of us today would not confront an attacker of any age for fear of physical harm. The crime of someone trying to steal your purse on the street might happen in today’s time, but the chances of the victim and the attacker having a conversation over dinner afterwards is pretty slim.

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The Drinking Age In All States Should Stay At 21

  • Research shows that young people react differently to alcohol. Teens get drunk twice as fast as adults, but have more trouble knowing when to stop.
  • In Europe where underage kids have more access to alcohol, there is more underage drunkiness, injury, rape, and school problems due to alcohol.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption contributes to more than 4,600 deaths among persons less than 21 years of age in the U.S. each year.
  • Before the 21 minimum legal drinking age was implemented, underage drunk drivers were involved in over twice as many fatal traffic crashes as today.
  • According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, when the drinking age was raised, crashes went down almost 30 percent.
  • The brain continues to develop into young adulthood (up to age 25). It is still developing when you are a teenager, and it is vulnerable to the disruptive effects of alcohol. Studies show that disruption causes problems with important cognitive skills like attention, learning, and memory.
  • During adolescence, the parts of the brain that are responsible for expressing emotions and for seeking gratification tend to mature sooner that the regions of the brain that control impulses and that oversees careful decision making.
  • Lastly, it is heartbreaking to watch people you know, or even experience yourself, the preventable loss of a loved one due to a person’s inability to control the amount of alcohol they have consumed because they were a young and inexperienced drinker.

Conclusion: Keeping the drinking age at 21 will save lives by allowing most adolescents more time to mature mentally and physically which will prevent them from making poor decisions that could have detrimental effects on their future and the future of others.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), and The Mentor Foundation (mentorfoundation.org)

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Our Current Economic State: Not a Pretty Picture

   You would have to be living under a rock to not know that our country’s economy has been experiencing a recession. As the process of recovery drags on, many experts have devoted their time to analyzing why this event occurred. At this point, most of us aren’t concerned with the “why”, we just want it to end. With many different kinds of people, and numbers of businesses, being severely affected, it definitely is a nationwide problem.

   Corporate America is feeling the squeeze. Business and corporate environments are being changed and affected by the number of people absent on both sides of the markets. Consumers are not spending money on luxury items and services, and are cutting back on the amount they spend on necessities. This is affecting businesses in all industries, from small or privately owned, to large corporations. Without the money that is made from products or services, companies can’t purchase supplies they need to run their businesses. This affects the people who provide the supplies for those companies. Eventually, the people who produce the raw materials used to make the supplies are affected, and the chain reaction spreads. Companies also cut expenses by cutting the number of employees on the payroll, reducing wages, and by scaling back on benefits. As you can see, everything is eventually affected on all levels of business. It is similar to the food chain in nature, where every organism is important to the survival of another. If any level of the food chain is eliminated or reduced, it affects the survival of the rest of the organisms.

   The biggest effect on individual people has been the number of jobs eliminated, or the reduction in the amount of their paychecks. This can cause many people to become depressed and anxious. Doctors have observed that long periods of stress can trigger many kinds of health issues. Stress weakens the immune system and causes the body to break down. Some people may resort to smoking or drinking to deal with their situation which can compromise their immune system as well. The continual stress can affect the daily emotional state of the person, and this can eventually take a toll on their relationships. Most men’s identity and self esteem are directly linked to their job and how they perform in their work environment. The feelings of desperation and failure can affect their interactions with the people closest to them. For many of these people, it can feel like a storm that is building to the size of a hurricane. Tropical storms out over the ocean can gather strength as they near land, eventually becoming hurricanes that can produce large amounts of damage to the objects and people in its path. No one can control the events that produce it, and no one can prevent the damage it inflicts. For many, they feel they are living in a “perfect storm” that they can’t control.

   It’s hard to find anyone who’s finances are not being affected by the recession. Some are just cutting back on spending, where others are struggling to stay afloat. We have all heard of the record number of foreclosures of homes all over our country. Without a steady income, most families can’t afford to pay their mortgages. The credit card industry has been hit as well, with people not paying even the minimum due. Most credit companies are struggling to collect the money owed to them, causing the credit industry to tighten up the criteria for lending money or extending credit lines. It makes sense; most of us would be wary of lending money to someone who never payed us back. And because of this, creditors and banks have decided to trust no one.

   Most colleges are seeing a major increase in older people returning to school. With the job market becoming increasingly more competitive, a college education is essential for job security. People that are not finding jobs after being layed off are deciding to use their time to continue or increase their previous education level. Colleges are becoming more selective of who they accept, because of the number of applicants exceed their capacity. The upside to this, for most, is that some have chosen this opportunity to change careers. Something they may have wanted to do for a long time, but couldn’t because of the time involved. Unfortunately, even a college degree isn’t a guarantee for a job, since many college graduates are struggling to join the work force after graduation.

   So how do we stay positive with all the negative statistics and information being reported every day? I think it takes a little bit of hope, a little bit of faith in oneself, and a shot of stubbornness to not let it get the best of us. Even though it’s hard to find comfort in the saying “everything is temporary”, I think we should remember that this will pass, and eventually it become another event in history that we look back on and (hopefully) learn from.

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Happiness

   Happiness seems to be a very elusive thing in our busy world of today. Some of us stay so busy that we aren’t even aware of our current state of mind. And almost everyone has a different definition of what defines happiness for them. I think most of us would agree that it comes with an overall pleasant emotional feeling. But beyond that, what is true happiness?

   According to Travis Calvo, “happiness is about letting go”.(102) His feeling is that to achieve a positive state of mind, you must let go of negative thoughts. There is definitely some validity in that approach, since any negativity counteracts the positive mindset associated with happiness. In the book Money Can’t Buy Happiness, the author states that happiness “does not come from tangible resources”, but “comes from within”.(Arthur 76) This follows the same opinion that Leslie Reed stated in her book Happiness and the Pursuit of It. She states that “true happiness comes from satisfaction with your life, not just events”.(27) Both authors feel that it is not something that can be achieved through people or events outside of yourself, or by things you can acquire.

   I agree with all three authors in that it is definitely achieved in the mind with a positive attitude and an inward focus. Because every person is unique, the specifics of the source for happiness may vary. But how to achieve it seems to have a common thread. As Leslie Reed put it, “there are 3 grand essentials to happiness in this life: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”(63) It’s up to each individual to figure out what “something” is to them. There really isn’t a secret to it at all, it’s just a journey that is more difficult than it looks. Each person must know themselves well, follow their gut, and maintain a level of peace so that their decisions will lead them in the right direction. If we are lucky, that direction will lead each one of us to that elusive destination — happiness.

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Surviving Life or Death Experiences

   Most of us live a pretty safe and comfortable life. Unlike our ancestors of long ago, we don’t have to battle predators, harsh weather, or physical challenges in our environment just to secure food for our family or to have a place to live. In the past, if you didn’t have good survival skills, you didn’t live very long. In our comfortable environment of the modern world, we have lost the instincts that kick in when we are put into a life or death situation. There are many disasters and man make mistakes that put people in harsh or deadly environments that test the strength and stamina of each individual. There must be a reason why some survive and some perish when faced with the same challenges. While researching this topic, I found an interesting explanation by many top experts on the subject. Most feel that the mental state and the attitude of the person make more of a difference than the physical attributes or the experience they possess.

   The interesting situation of the 33 trapped miners in Chile is a perfect example of this point. First, they were not expected to be alive when they were located after two and a half weeks of being trapped almost a mile underground. Besides the possibility of injury from the collapse, officials didn’t know if there was sufficient air, food, or water to sustain them for that length of time. Amazingly, they had the collective mental capacity to band together and ration the little food they had left, and use equipment they had with them for obtaining water and light. They decided to do whatever it took to live until they were rescued. Experts say that this attitude is the main reason the Chilean miners have survived longer than any other trapped miners in history. There are many other stories where only a few people in a group survive because of the difference in ideas or attitudes toward the situation.

   This should tell us something about our society. Are we focusing on developing what’s important for the survival of our species in ourselves and in our children? Will we be prepared for whatever happens in our future? Though it seems insignificant, we should practice strengthening our mental stamina and our attitude toward life. It could end up being the determining factor when we ourselves are face to face with death.

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Beyond Our Borders

Travel to a foreign country

  • cultural awareness
  • different lifestyles
  • Mediterranean cruise
  • historic places
  • different foods
  • outdoor markets
  • educational enrichment
  • mass transportation
  • interesting architecture

Outline

A.  Cruise to Mediterranean

     1. Barcelona, Spain

         a. outdoor markets

         b. different lifestyle

           *food

           *transportation

     2. Rome, Italy

         a. historic places

         b. interesting architecture

         c. educational enrichment

B. Benefits of experience

     1. Cultural awareness

     2. Appreciation

   I am a firm believer that everyone should have the experience of traveling to a foreign country. I have been incredibly lucky to have seen several countries on a single trip while on a Mediterranean cruise. Of the many cities that I visited, Barcelona, Spain and Rome, Italy affected me the most. Barcelona had a wonderfully warm feel to it, with big outdoor markets, sidewalk restaurants, and families walking the streets together. The restaurants were small and served incredibly fresh food, and most people walked or used the public transportation system. It had a wonderful sense of community spirit. Rome, on the other hand, was incredibly historic, with almost too many sites of importance to experience. Besides the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, and many others, the architecture was incredible all over the city — especially when you remember the age of the city itself. I have to say that it was the most enriching educational experience of my life.

   There are many benefits to stepping outside of your comfort zone and visiting a country where the environment and culture are extremely different from your own. Most of us forget or don’t realize how young our country is compared to almost every country. We can walk the ground where historic people and events happened, or see a culture that hasn’t been completely changed by modern technology or massive greed. It’s compelling to see that not everyone lives with the tremendous pressure to succeed or the disconnected relationship patterns that we have grown accustomed to in the United States. It helps us to understand other cultures when we see them in action. And for some people, it makes them appreciate the ease at which most of us live in our country. That alone can be enlightening considering that we don’t always appreciate how easy and comfortable our daily lives really are in comparison. Because of this, I urge you to expand your mind, and become adventurous for the sake of making our world a little smaller, and bonding all of us a little closer.

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