Fall 2013: "Simple Living" Literary Gems

We received many powerful essays for the Fall 2013 Writing Competition. Though not every participant can win the contest, we'd like to share some excerpts that caught our eye.
Simon Okelo photo by Betty Udesen

Simon Okelo plays his djembe drums. “It’s really soothing for me. I used to play drums in church. They make me feel at home. I take my breaks on the drum. It makes me ease off of everything.” Photo by Betty Udesen for YES! Magazine.

How could I change? What am I willing to give up? To test this, I gave myself a scenario. If there was a very dangerous storm approaching and my family and I were forced to evacuate, what would be the essential items I would try to bring along with me? This, to me, made it very real.

— Brooke Adams, grade 12, Mycro School, Gainesville, Fla.


I was blown away by this fact [a surprising amount of stuff I own is a luxury in the Third World] as if the words in the article came out of the screen and created a wind more powerful than a hurricane.

— Ibrahim Ahmad, grade 6, Catlin Gable School, Portland, Ore.


If I accept the challenge of being a unique person in a place filled with copies, I believe I can become a person I am not only proud of, but others can be proud of.

— Nori Bunch, grade 8, Elmwood Middle School, Rogers, Ark.


But Man has evolved and life has seemingly become a bit more complex, so now the order goes: grow, create Facebook account, reproduce, die. We define simplicity.

—Austin Canavan, grade 11, Tunstall High School, Danville, Va.


A simple life is a happy life—that’s Simon Okelo’s message. A person doesn't need more to be happy. I’m not saying that everyone needs to go sell all their possessions and move to huts in South Africa or anything like that. But we could start with something simpler, like refraining from rushing out and buying the latest video game or the newest iDevice.

— Faith Goede, grade 8, Star of Bethlehem School, New Berlin, Wis.


Let’s face it. We like stuff.

In our society, nobody buys JUST what they need. There will always be that twelve pack of soda or the jumbo bag of chips or the two-for-one deal. It’s easy, really. The shower is the sanctuary of vocal music and the place of making life decisions. And it’s warm. Who wouldn't want to be there for half an hour?

— Jamie Hart, grade 8, Longfellow Middle School, Norman, Okla.


American people today are so extraordinary in their consuming. If the rest of the Earth’s population lived the way we did, we’d need five planet Earths to live sustainably, and we've only got one. Are we all doomed to live like the mythical king Erysichthon, cursed to always consume ravenously without ever being satisfied?

— Allen Huang, grade 7, Carmel Valley Middle School, San Diego, Calif.


Another thing I have decided to do is to restrain myself when I see something in Target that is frivolous but that I think looks awesome.

— Tyler King, grade 6, Langley Middle School, Langley, Wash.


It seems as though society today cares more about how many followers you have on the Internet than how many friends you have in real life.

— Paris Luebker, grade 7, Elmwood Middle School, Rogers, Ark.


A man once told me that I was a spoiled brat and that half the stuff I had I didn't need—now I see how right he is.

— George Martisius, grade 8, Terra Pacifica Charter School, Santa Cruz, Calif.


The world is an electrified ocean of cords, batteries, and extraordinary technological appliances.

— Sarah McKee, grade 9, Sonoran Science Academy, Tucson, Ariz.


Even though I love macaroni and cheese, I love our planet as well.

—Laurel Remy, grade 6, Catlin Gabel School, Portland, Ore.


Choices are unbelievable advantages that help people thrive, but also can deprive.

—Zella Sahar, grade 7, Eden Prairie-Central Middle School, Eden Prairie, Minn.


What if every year everybody who was above the poverty line gave 10 things to charity—to the people below the poverty line—all over the world.

— Eamon Walsh, grade 6, Catlin Gabel School, Portland, Ore.


Young people here cry because they don’t want to eat their food. Children in places like Kisumu, Kenya cry because they don’t have food.

— Brett Winter, grade 8, Creative Learning Academy, Pensacola, Fla.

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