The View from the Other Side

There comes a moment in the life of an at-risk youth when he will look across the way and realize that something is very wrong with his life. This will be a pivotal moment. In that moment he will do one of two things. He will decide that it must be addressed or he will shrug it off and decide that he will get to it later. The second choice will prove disastrous in the course of his life.

My childhood took an abrupt turn one day in the summer before my eight grade year. A friend, one of the few I had, asked me to go with him to a private pool in Brookfield, IL. We lived one suburb over, but I went to school in Brookfield. It was a really nice pool. As we were leaving I said out loud, “I think I’ll come back here again.” My friend, in a matter-of-factly tone, told me, “You can’t.”

I asked, “Why is that?”

“It’s a private pool. You have to be a member.” He said as he went out the door.

At the nearby reception desk I began scanning some of the posted information and soon found what I was looking for. Membership there was several hundred dollars. It was in that very moment that I realized “we” were different. We were poor.

The amount of racial discrimination my sisters and I were exposed to in those days had already made me into a recluse, but at that moment I also realized another very important fact. Although we were poor reading was my great equalizer. I was already reading a lot but now my reading took on a new purpose: to escape poverty.

This is the pivotal moment I speak of. It is that moment that we realize that unlike “them,” we have obstacles which are hindering us and our future. We realize that we are different from “them.” However, this won’t be a “good”, “unique” different, but rather, if only vaguely, that we are at a disadvantage. We are in fact losing. Many will experience this moment, but few will act on it.

There are literally dozens of reasons why so few will act on this realization. To keep it simple, it will come down to the values of the individual. Many of my young men will say they have all the right values, but upon a close examination of the way they live their lives, I have found a very select set of values. The sort of values that contribute to a life of poverty. Herein lies the problem.

Over the years, many of my young men have confessed that they knew something needed to change, but they didn’t pay it much attention, they would do it later, for some they made an excuse and thought their lucky day would arrive. Many looked for the easy way out, trying to manipulate their way in life only to find out that the world of successful adults has no time for such individuals.

The values we teach our children must begin with morals. All else will be of no consequence if they grow up as immoral people. Laws are based on morals and thriving communities depend on them to continue to thrive. In short, to escape this pattern, the cycle my young men find themselves in, they will have to set about on a quest to develop new values and they must believe in their quest more than anyone else. They must commit themselves to learning and growing. Of the many young men I have worked with, few have selected this path. However, those who have, now live lives of abundance.


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