Running Crazy (Pierce Moffett)

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Whenever I tell people that I run cross country, they tend to look at me in a funny way. It’s as if they want to tell me I’m crazy, but they don’t want to appear rude. So to avoid being mean, people always ask me “why?” They don’t seem to believe that it’s possible to run for fun. People cannot comprehend why runners run. To most, running is a punishment used in other sports, meant to inflict pain. But even during a tough, painful practice, I can still find enjoyment in it.

One of the reasons I run is to prepare for racing. Most people (especially myself) have a competitive spirit inside of them. Racing gives me the chance to let that spirit loose. And the feeling of satisfaction after finishing a race is unlike anything else.

However, the biggest reason I run is my team. Nothing builds a stronger bond than running. When you go through a moment of intense pain with someone else, you leave that moment better friends. For me, running has brought some of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life, but if I ever think back on those moments, I can distinctly remember who I experienced them with. No other sport creates the same type of relationship that this creates. Nothing can beat the bond that is made when two people experience excruciating pain. The bonds that I have made through running have honestly turned into some of my strongest friendships. Those friendships are the reason that I run.

But even after I try to explain this reason to people, they still can’t comprehend why I run. So I’ve given up explaining it to people. When they ask “why,” I just answer “because I’m crazy.”

And maybe that’s the most truthful answer of all.

The Most Wonderful Three Months of the Year (Ann Marie Godfrey)

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Christmas in the early to mid-1900s looked a lot different than it does now in the twenty-first century. Most households did not put up a tree or decorate the house until a few days or even the day before Christmas. The holiday season has since been extended because of the commercialization of Christmas. Decorations appear on store shelves as early as October, and Christmas music begins playing on the radio around the same time.

For some, this is a major annoyance. These people tend to feel strongly that Christmas music and decorations should not be heard or seen until after Thanksgiving or even later. They think that premature celebration of Christmas causes people to overlook Thanksgiving.

Others, including myself, enjoy the music and all aspects of the season so much that we have no problem starting the festivities a bit early. In fact, once November rolls around, I begin to compile a playlist on Spotify with my favorite artists’ Christmas albums.

While some might think it strange to do such things, I believe that starting the Christmas season a bit earlier allows people to feel a certain joy that can be hard to find as cooler weather and gloomy days become more frequent–unless of course you live in Alabama, in which case the joy would allow you to cope with abnormally warm weather and lack of rain.

I still am able to enjoy the month of November and Thanksgiving with my family even with Christmas decorations up around the house. Though many still may be against the idea, I will always love listening to Christmas music and beginning to decorate in early November.

More than a Job (Will Green)

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My family always encouraged my brothers and I to get jobs as soon as we could and to learn early on how to work for a boss. Both of my older brothers worked for Chick-fil-A as their first jobs, so naturally I followed suit. I have been working for Chick-Fil-A for two years now and have learned that our product is so much more than a chicken sandwich.

When I first got the job, I was working a few days a week as the Chick-fil-A cow and was absolutely loving it. Imagine getting to pretend it is halloween every time you work. Literally, getting to walk around Chick-fil-A in a cow suit making kids, families, and friend groups laugh was a dream. Not too long after, I began to work behind the counter and learned that it was not all just dancing out on the side of highway 280. Learning to work a register, stock counters, and breakdown lemonade machines is tough work. Yet there is joy in getting to watch the faces of the hundreds of people I serve light up when they receive the praised Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich. I absolutely love it.

My dad just recently took a job as the Senior Director of Winshape Homes, a division of the Chick-fil-A Foundation. As I begin to learn and see more and more of what Chick-fil-A is all about, I have grown exponentially in my appreciation and love for my job.

I would strongly encourage it and would love to talk to anyone who is thinking about starting a high school job to consider Chick-fil-A. Who would not want to work for a company whose stated corporate purpose is “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick‐fil‐A.”

Battle Royal: A Book Review (Katie Krulak)

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Fourty-two teenagers, lethal weapons, minimal supplies, one survivor. Hunger Games? No, Battle Royale. Before The Hunger Games skyrocketed to its place at the top of the best seller list, Battle Royale was released in 1999 in Japan. Portraying a dystopian Japan under a totalitarian government, author Koushun Takami sets a grim stage for his characters to walk upon.

What makes Battle Royale distinct from The Hunger Games?

Why should we bother reading both when a familiar one with easily pronounceable Western names would suffice?

To start, Battle Royale is a book that is geared towards a far more mature audience. While the plot of the book is generally the same, The Hunger Games’ depiction of the Capitol in all its whimsical corruption and the way friendships are so easily formed among the tributes, brings a certain levity to the story. Not so with its Japanese counterpart. In Battle Royale this is not a game to bring amusement so much as a calculated study. Forcing third year junior high students (eighth graders) to fight to the death is bad enough; bringing in students from the same class adds a new level of drama and tension. Minor characters receive nearly as much time in the spotlight as the central protagonists, allowing readers to grasp the complexity of the students’ relationships, which range from open animosity to romance. And speaking of romance, it played a major role in The Hunger Games, but Battle Royale focuses more on survival in the harshest of situations.

Koushun Takami paints vibrant characters against a gritty backdrop. The cover shuts on the conclusion of a bloody swath of devastation recounted in such a way that the most grotesque death is depicted in a vivid way that can only be described as beautiful. The story comes to life, characters breathe on the drawing readers into their world, a world ruled by fear, instinct, and desperate hope.

The Praise of Children (Jack Wilson)

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Nothing is more satisfying than the praise of children. Maybe it is their sincerity, or maybe it is their ability to exaggerate. Regardless, there is something that separates a child’s compliment from a friend’s compliment. On a personal level, I have learned that I hold a lot of weight with younger children. Every Thursday I help coach roughly forty eight-year-olds and teach them the basics of soccer. Even though I’m not an adult, they think I hung the moon. I’ve developed secret handshakes with each of these kids, all because I can show them a move or teach them where to go. In the end, this raw and unfiltered praise from young children truly means the most. Every time I take the field on Thursday, I always remember the gravity I hold because of my actions.

Saying Goodbye (Pierce Moffett)

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The hands of the children hung on to the bars of the iron gate. They had been lining up for hours, waiting for us to finish working. Once the gate opened, everyone of them sprinted through the small opening, as if they were racing to make it to their buddy first. This was my experience the last day of my mission trip to Belize this past summer.

Every night of the past week we had hosted a VBS for these kids, building a relationship with each one. Every night we saw their smiling faces, each kid just as happy to see us as we were to see them. But after playing games and crafts with them for five days, sadly, the fun had to end. Each leader tried their hardest to make the last day the most memorable.

When our adult leaders told us it was time to go, everybody’s heart sank. We had poured our hearts into these children for days, and now we knew we might never see them again. Each leader gave their kids a last hug and took one last picture to remember them by. One of the kids I had formed a relationship with gave me a craft he had made so that I could remember him. We gave each other one last hug, and he walked off to the gate.

DragonCon 2016 (Sara Hinton)

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It is said that birds of a feather flock together. Well, the same is true of nerds. And it is certainly true for those who venture out to DragonCon year after year.

Stuffed inside of four days and four nights, this convention of nerds and geeks is an incredible melting pot of superheroes, anime fans, movie lovers, and TV addicts. And for a nerd like myself, it is the best time imaginable.

The best part of any conference is the cosplay. Cosplay is dressing up as your favorite superhero and interacting with others in character for a while. This allows one to transcend the boundaries that normally divide strangers. Suddenly everyone has something in common: a love for the strange and the fantastic. Somehow the sheer nerdiness of the conference automatically connects everyone and makes them friends.

As one walks down Peach Tree Street, cosplayers and others nerds crowd the sidewalks, and the energy is contagious. Many gawk, laugh, point, and take pictures of the spectacular costumes, but no one minds. It’s what they’re there for.

There are four buildings rented for the event. One is the hall of vendors. There I met a man who crossed over Star Wars with fantasy. He engaged me in a conversation about the whether the mace of my character, Hawk Girl, would have any effect on his lightsaber. Because Hawk Girl’s mace disrupts magic, the answer was yes. This kind of conversation is normal at DragonCon.

I met actors and actresses from some of my favorite TV shows and movies. Ciara Renée, the actress who plays Hawk Girl in the T.V. show Legends of Tomorrow, was there and took a free picture with me and anyone else who dressed like her character. Every actor was genuine and kind no matter how long the lines to meet them were. The star cast for the TV show Grimm and Jason Isaacs, a.k.a. Lucius Malfoy of the Harry Potter franchise, were remarkably kind and genuine people.

They laughed and made jokes. They answered my questions, and one of them even gave me an idea of what was to come in the upcoming season. But one actor surprised me more than anyone. The lead actor of the TV show Warehouse 13 was there, Eddie McClintock. He also played a minor character in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. as a Kree warrior. When I complimented him on his role, he gave me a free autograph. That combined with a rare and usually expensive comic book for only one dollar made this one of the best trips ever.

Perspective (Anya McDaniel)

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After the Cold War, countries were split into three broad categories: first, second, and third world. The United States, along with countries such as Australia, Western Europe, and Japan, was considered a first world country. A first world country has the characteristics of being industrial, capitalistic, wealthy, and developed. It is from this category that we get the well known phrase “first world problems.”

This satirical phrase leaves inhabitants of the first world appearing awfully foolish and spoiled. The trivial frustrations of wealthy Americans appear ridiculous when compared to the far weightier problems of poorer, less developed countries. Have you ever said anything like this?

  1. “My phone keeps overheating when I’m sunbathing.”
  2. “I have to watch movies on my phone now because my tablet ran out of battery.”
  3. “I have nothing to wear!” (spoken while looking at a closet full of clothes)
  4. “The tint on my car windows isn’t dark enough.”
  5. “My bluetooth speaker won’t play my music loud enough.”

These are only a few of the complaints one might overhear in a first world country on a regular basis. If we’re not on the list, most of us can translate and find ourselves voicing similarly absurd complaints. The point is this: No matter how much comfort we obtain, we will always find something to complain about. It is the curse of human depravity, the insatiable greed lurking within the sin nature.

Therefore, next time a first world complaint comes to mind about the phone charger being in another room or losing the remote somewhere in the couch, try to remember that these menial struggles are nothing compared to the problems of a third world country.

Gratitude: Something to Keep In Mind (Gracie Eddins)

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Jen is fifteen years old. She lives in Gulu, Uganda and is still in elementary school. She is an exceptional student and has always worked hard in school. She is educated well enough to advance to secondary school; however, she does not have enough money for the tuition. Jen’s tuition is 1,000 Ugandan Shillings per semester; which is equivalent to about thirty cents US. Literally, pocket change.

This seems like nothing to us, but Jen has paid her own way through school and has struggled to earn this money. She has paid for her brothers and herself to complete elementary school by digging. Jen’s mother died when she was very young. A few years later, Jen’s stepmother, whom she also loved, passed away. Jen’s new stepmother verbally abuses her. “She tells me ‘You are worthless. No one loves you. We don’t need you.’ ”

Jen starts to cry and continues, “Please pray that someone will come into my life that loves me.”

Jen’s father has been an alcoholic for as long as she can remember. He is in and out of her life and beats her and her stepmother whenever he is actually home. The reason Jen cannot continue to secondary school is because her father steals all of her digging money for alcohol. Jen told us that she just keeps working so that she can continue her education, which is the most important thing to her.

And yet, despite all of Jen’s circumstances, you will still find her laughing, hysterically sometimes, with her friends during a game of fútbol on the dirt field.

Jen’s story is a reminder for us to be thankful for our education instead of complaining about school. Be grateful for the lives we are living and remember people like Jen.

Hamilton Therapy (Lauren Hoaglund)

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For the past few months I have begun to truly realize what the upperclassmen have always been complaining about. Junior year is draining me. It has left me helpless. The amount of stress that physics, calculus, philosophy, and thesis have caused me is unreal. So as everyone does when they are under stress, I have had to find a way to cope.

Now read closely, I am about to change your life. For the past two and a half months I have been completely and utterly obsessed with the Broadway musical Hamilton. It is the story of Alexander Hamilton and his struggle to create a lasting financial plan for the brand new American government. The musical follows Hamilton from the time he leaves his home in the Caribbean to go to college and join the revolution all the way to his duel and subsequent death with Aaron Burr.

Now, dear reader, I am going to share something with you that you must promise never to hold against me. Two days a week during the summer for the past four years, I have volunteered at American Village as a junior interpreter. I dress up in colonial clothes and teach children and adults about America’s struggle for freedom during the eighteenth century. So basically I am a nerd who not only studies history, but literally lives it.

Because I am both an American history nerd and Broadway musical maniac, Hamilton has been the perfect escape from my overwhelming and tear filled year thus far. If you walk into a room with me and some of my fellow classmates and Mr. Burgess or Mr. Tew, I can pretty much guarantee that we will be quoting this incredible musical. Even now I cannot listen to the last three songs without crying.

I have never gotten lost in the music of a Broadway show like I have with Hamilton. It has consumed my waking days. It reminds me to look around at how lucky I am to be alive right now. For those of you who do not understand the references imbedded in this article, drop everything and listen to Hamilton.

Now. Immediately.