Heroes This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

November 3, 2009
By , SSI, GA
My name is Johnathan Gates, and I am a fifteen year old boy living in the midst of the Great Depression. All around me I see changes. It is as if the prosperity and quality of life that our community and the United States as a whole experienced during the 1920s has disappeared; it is as if it never happened.

I have lived in Plains, Georgia all of my life. My family owns about 800 acres on the outskirts of the town, which my father manages. Before the Stock Market Crash of 1929, we were successful. My mother and sisters wore the dresses of the cites, we had radios in every room, and even a car in the driveway. Our family lived a comfortable, relatively leisurely life, in a well outfitted home that sat in the middle of our fields. We would have done alright, but we had our hands in more than farming. Our family owns a good deal of real estate elsewhere in the state, and we also had a fair share of stock to our names. So, we have taken quite a hit over the last few years. Things have changed, however, things are not all bad.

Today as I was walking through town on my way home from school, I stopped to go inside the town's candy store. I had an arithmetic test today that left nothing in my brain, and all but the core classes had been cut at school, making the day even less bearable. I needed a break. I hadn't been inside the store in months, and I had even forgotten that sweet smell that comes when you open the door. The simple pleasure that comes from a little thing like that smell or a game of monopoly or mini golf is what makes this time livable. People revel in these moments that have become meaningful, and they look back upon them fondly. So, when I walked out of that store, my pockets a little lighter but a jawbreaker in my hand, I started to realize that life wasn't about the money, but something else altogether. Life is about something that I saw perfectly illustrated today as I walked out of that candy store.

On my way home, I usually walk by the town square, a man's voice caught my attention as it drifted on the wind. The voice was that of an auctioneer, shouting prices. I wandered over to the makeshift stage that the in front of which stood a good side crowd. Two men stood on the stage along with the auctioneer, one in a pair of worn overalls with tears rolling down his face as what I assumed to be his possessions were sold one by one. The other stood by in silence, clad in one of the Zoot Suits of the city, a tie, and a grim, hardened look that looked to have had a good deal of use. The man was probably an employee of a bank, sent to collect payment on a loan. I was appalled that the townspeople, people I knew and loved, would take this poor man's only possessions from him. As I gazed on in dismay, I caught something that I hadn't seen before. The man in the overalls was not crying in sadness, but happiness. He had a smile on his face and a look of hope in his wet eyes. I looked around, trying to piece together what I was seeing. I saw the crowd whispering amongst one another, some exchanging money, some bidding with the money that was supplied to them. I looked at the stage, where there was a substantial amount of furniture and other items neatly arrayed. Why hadn't anyone moved what they bought? Then I realized what was going on. The people were not buying the furniture for themselves, but for the man on the stage. The tears on his cheeks were not tears of sadness, they were tears of gratitude. The bidders were paying this man's debts, asking nothing in return.

Now as I sit here in my room, writing down today's events, I realize that it is not Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh, the actors you see at the drive in theater, or even President Roosevelt who are the real heroes of this country. The heroes are the people that choose to do the right thing, in spite of the circumstances. The heroes are the people that choose to save one man's livelihood, even if they are forced to sacrifice a bit of their own in doing so. The heroes are the men and women all over the country who leave their homes to find jobs under President Roosevelt's New Deal to feed their families. The heroes of this country are everyday people who have overcome the drought, the stock market crash, and the events that have followed to march on into the future, which I dearly hope will be a reflection of what I saw in Plains today.

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