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Next Generation Storyteller: Anya Miller

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines inspiring as “causing people to want to do or create something, or to lead better lives.”

My inspiration is Uncle Moe. Let me take you on an emotional journey through Uncle Moe’s life story, and how he became my true inspiration in life. I have interviewed Uncle Moe and his cousin who grew up with him, to get the most authentic story I could because this means a lot to me. He is the reason why I try to improve myself every day, to be more like him.

As a kid in school, I was often angry. I found myself on the verge of violence many times, and felt peer pressure to bring others down even more. I was in fifth grade when I met Uncle Moe. He was a family friend that I didn't pay much attention to when I was young.

However, on one particularly rough day for me, our family happened to go over to his house where started to tell us his story. He talked about how even as a young kid, the pain he endured from other children’s teasing accompanied him to his adulthood. Immediately I thought back to myself. Would I be the cause of someone's pain if I continued to belittle and hurt my classmates? Did I want to be the antagonist in someone's story?

The answer was easily no. It was at this moment that Uncle Moe inspired me. This was the moment that Uncle Moe actually changed the course of my life. I decided then that I never wanted to be a negative impact on someone's life. Within the next few years, I got to know Uncle Moe more, and learned he had even more wisdom to share. These “aha moments” about life lead me to be the person I am today. I don't think I would have ever discovered them without Uncle Moe's help.

Uncle Moe’s story is a one of humble beginnings. As a young child, he would work long days on his family farm. He had a knack for caring for the animals, especially the hogs. When I asked him in our interview, “What made your connection with the animals so strong?” He replied, “Because they are just like you and me. They are just trying to live a peaceful life, and if I can be the one to provide that for them, I would be honored.”

Uncle Moe had always been a big believer in peace. In fact, he wished the world had more peace and insisted that if the world had “a little more Moe-jo” it might be a better place (Moe-jo was what he liked to call his peaceful influence and overall harmonious attitude).

As a kid, Uncle Moe was free of judgment from others, as most young kids are, despite his quirks. Yet as Uncle Moe grew older and attended his local high school, he experienced troubles fitting in with the rest of the kids. “Well, let me tell you, people just aren't as nice as they think they are. I was made fun of for being different, but I don't see how that was bad. The world is funny that way,” commented Uncle Moe during our interview.

In all honesty, Uncle Moe is different from most. He is not fascinated by violence, he is a proud vegetarian, a skilled bread maker, and later on in his life he developed an obsession with Pilates. “Anya,” He would always tell me, “Core and flexibility are the most important.” However, his varied interests lead to ridicule. Why did his originality coincide with his exclusion?

I interviewed his cousin Larry some time ago to get a more outside yet personal view on Uncle Moe's life. “Yes, Uncle Moe is different, but his differences are what shaped him. Differences are what shape all of us and that ain't nothing to be ashamed about,”he said.

Larry had a point. Not only have I learned so much about myself and the impact of negativity because of Uncle Moe, but thanks to his life and some insight from Larry, I have also learned an important lesson about the acceptance of others. Uncle Moe is my inspiration because I have learned from him that differences are not to be ridiculed, but instead, celebrated. Maybe we can all learn something from his story.

Anya Miller, an 8th grader at Friedell Middle School, is the 2nd place winner of the 2017 Next Generation Storytellers contest, presented by Bolder Options Rochester and the Med City Beat.

Read submissions from all the finalists.

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Next Generation Storyteller: Grace Huddleston

Next Generation Storyteller: Alicia Niemann