Cousin Chris This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

   Last spring while on vacation with my relatives in Florida, I watched my little cousinwrestle with his schoolwork. Sitting at his desk with his glasses in hand, he was prepared to tackle anything.He readily opened his book to start the assignment, but ten minutes later the corners of his mouth had droopedinto a frown. He had only finished reading the first paragraph. His head hung in shame. He looked up, a signalfor my help. The frustration in his eyes struck me like a bullet to the heart.

I've remembered this scene oftensince it happened. As much as I wanted to, I couldn't help my cousin, because he had a tumor in his brain. Thecursed thing has paralyzed his right side, causing him to limp. It also gives him seizures, makes him stutter,and affects his ability to read.

Despite these obstacles, he works very hard. He completes every assignment andstruggles to read the material, even though school is tough. He forces himself to do his best. I know by howhard he works that he doesn't just work because he is told to; he does it for himself.

Because of my cousin'slimp, he has difficulty running, but he doesn't let that stop him from playing his favorite sport, basketball.He practices hard and plays well. That week of vacation, I played one-on-one in his driveway. I remember hisunsteady arms expertly shooting the ball from the three-point line. While playing, he told me about the kids athis school. "They w-were laughin' at me 'cause I said I wanted to play b-basketball f-for the school team. Theysaid there was no way I could be good enough." I went red in the face with rage as I imagined the puny prissieswhom he could beat with little effort. "That's okay," he reassured me, his face brightening. "They d-don't knowwhat they're ta-talkin' about." I thought he showed remarkable maturity. Even though no one stuck up for him,he believes in himself enough so it doesn't matter what his peers said.

My cousin has suffered a lot:surgeries, medical conditions, handicaps. But I think these things have helped him face reality and be brave. Ithink the most painful thing he continues to go through are his seizures. One night, he called to tell me thata terrible event had happened.
    "I had a seizure today in c-class and Ms. Ingel called the nurse. And I got tom-miss social studies." I nearly dropped the receiver in terror.
   "Are you okay?" I asked urgently.
   "Do I soundokay?" was his sarcastic reply.
   "Did you go to the hospital?" Surprisingly, he said,
   "N-no, I was okay. D-don'tworry, I'm a tough guy." While I was enraged at the school for not taking him to the hospital, I let out a sighof relief. I am sure he was scared, but the courage in his voice allowed me to believe he was okay.
   "D-don'tworry, 'cause I don't. God knows what He's doin'," he assured me.
   My cousin might not know how wise he is. Hehas taught me so much just by living his life. When I see how much he fights to do well, I see how lucky I amfor all that comes easy to me. He has taught me to work hard and not give up. No matter how difficult thingsare, he keeps going. He tries his best no matter how many things get in his way. He has taught me not to listento those who try to bring you down.
   His teachers and classmates gave up on him and said he couldn't succeed,could never be as good as everyone else. I think the most important thing I've learned from him is to believein myself. So few people thought he would make it through another school year, but he just tried harder. Heused their nasty comments to motivate himself. He showed me that believing in yourself is all you need tosucceed.
   I know that someday my cousin will prove to his snobby contemporaries and apathetic teachers that heis somebody. But, in my eyes, he already is somebody - an inspiration and my hero. Knowing him has made me abetter person. Few people realize how precious he is to the world. He is a gift. Anyone who doesn't see that is blind. Even his parents take their "present" for granted. They tell him to be more like me, but I know myparents should be telling me to be more like him instead.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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