Sample text for Chicken soup for the soul-- : stories for a better world : 101 stories to make the world a better place / Jack Canfield ... [et al.].
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Their Bullet, My Life
"The strongest principle of growth lies in the
Entering the large assembly room, the motor of my
powered wheelchair humming in my ears, I could feel the
eyes of every boy, all local gang members, staring at me. I
wondered how they would react to my computer-activated
voice. Would they listen to what I had to say? Would they
understand the violence and pain they were causing?
Could I really make a difference?
"Hello, I'm Cruz Carrasco," I began. "As you can see and
now hear, I am unable to walk or talk by myself. I wasn't
always in this wheelchair, and once I could speak as well
as any of you. In fact, up until I was seventeen years old, I
lived a life probably very similar to yours. My dream then
was to play pro football. I loved it! I started as a sophomore
for East L.A.'s Roosevelt High School Rough Riders
and was soon their star running back.
"By the time I was in the twelfth grade, UCLA had
offered me a full scholarship, and I was ready to take it. I
was going to be the first college graduate in my family. I
promised my mom I would buy her a big house with a
pool when I was a star. And then, without warning, my
plans and dreams were literally blown away. I don't
remember that day now, so what I am going to tell you is
what my family and friends have told me.
"November 4, 1986, was a normal school day. After football
practice, I headed home, had dinner with my mom,
and then went up to my room to do my homework. I
heard one of my football buddies calling to me outside my
window. My friends knew Mom couldn't hear them back
there. I sneaked out the window to go for a ride with him
on his new moped. If I had asked my mom, she wouldn't
have let me go. We rode around and stopped to hang out
with another football buddy at his house, even though we
knew his neighborhood was heavily infested with gangs
and drugs. Unfortunately, before we arrived at my
friend's house, a bad drug deal had gone down in the
neighborhood. Little did I know that this would be the
last time I would walk by myself, talk by myself, have normal
vision or live the life of my dreams.
"Once the gang realized the cocaine they had bought
was really soap, they came back, armed with a .44-caliber
Magnum, driving down the street and spraying bullets
into the neighborhood. In sheer panic, we started to run
for cover. My two friends fell as bullets ripped through
their legs. My terror was ended abruptly when a bullet
exploded in my head.
"For the next four and a half months, I lay in a coma,
machines feeding me and making me breathe. There was
not much hope that I would recover. Can you imagine
what it was like for me to awaken to the helpless horror of
what had become of me?
"The two years after the shooting are a blur to me now.
I do know that, throughout the seemingly endless year
and a half that followed, I was in rehab; my mother
refused to give up on me and vowed to eventually bring
me home. Her determination was contagious, and in spite
of my suffocating despair, I clung to hope.
"I was nineteen when I finally returned home. I had not
become the college football hero I had dreamed I would
be. Instead, I was having to start over from infancy, physically.
I was filled with grief over the life I had lost. It was
agonizing to realize that my friends had all gone to our
prom and graduated from high school. Some had gone on
to college; some were working; some were living in their
own apartments; some were even married with kids.
Once home, my mother did what she knew how to do
best: She loved me. She enrolled me in a program for disabled
adults, and I finished high school. But I still couldn't
communicate or move my own wheelchair; I was trapped
in my own body. I was filled with anger and frustration. I
realized that Mom's love wasn't enough. It was then that
Zoe came to work with me.
"Zoe began as my occupational therapist and became
first my friend, and then my partner in life. With Zoe, I
finally had someone listening to my dreams rather than
focusing on my disabilities. Zoe made sure I received the
voice-output computer to speak with and the power
wheelchair so I could get around independently. Once I
realized I could again interact with people, I wanted to
find a way to keep what happened to me from happening
to anyone else.
"That is why I am here today, eight years after I was
shot, to let you know about the effects of the choices you
make. Before you make those choices, I hope you will take
the time to think about how they will affect your life and
the lives of the people around you. They never caught the
guys who shot me, although I did learn a most painful
truth: One of the men in the car was my best friend from
elementary school! I never dreamed that the boy I loved
like a brother would take away my life as I knew it. I'm
sure he didn't, either. What a cruel result his choices and
mine made on my life. While I had been pursuing football,
he had joined a gang. I never thought it was cool belonging
to a gang, but I did think it was okay to be friends with
gang members. I never realized that simply associating
with gang members would change my life forever."
I spoke for about fifteen minutes and showed them a
video of myself before and after the shooting. When I was
finished, they shared with me that they had never met
someone who had been affected by gun violence like I
had. They knew they had affected a lot of lives through
their violence, but they had never seen the true impact of
their actions. When we were finished talking, they all
came up to shake my hand. I was filled with hope.
A few weeks later, I received letters from some of the
boys thanking me for coming and vowing to get out of the
gang. Some even said they wanted to look for a more
peaceful way of life. I was ecstatic. What had happened to
me finally had some meaning. I would never play football,
but I could make a difference in young people's lives.
In May 2000, Zoe and I adopted a child. As I see the
wonder and hope in my son's eyes, I dream of a future
when the only gun violence he will know about is the
cause of my disability. I'll never be the same as before, but
we all have to be the best we can be. When I look out into
the audience during a presentation, I hope that this won't
happen to any of them. I beg them, "Please stay away
from guns, drugs and gangs. Stop the violence! It is the
only way we can all live together in peace."
-Cruz Carrasco and Zoe McGrath
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