I had to chuckle, and then I sighed as I reflected
on the type of life their father and I have provided for our two sons. By no
stretch of the imagination are we at all rich; yet, coming from a background of
poverty, I do understand why the children in my son’s inner-city school would
believe that we are.
How many times have black children actually seen black
fathers who are attorneys or black mothers who earn their living creatively and
professionally? Two black parents with multiple degrees and professional careers
in an urban area? It’s very rare; even I understand that.
But our son isn’t rich. Not in the way most people value. Our
son doesn’t sport the latest in Ralph Lauren, although he wishes he could. He
actually wonders all the time why other kids receive more gifts than he does, and he has to earn his money by doing chores.
The bar for both of my sons' lives were raised when his dad and I decided we wanted more for ourselves and changed our environment.
Our son is rich because of a decision his dad and I made way before he was born. We made the decision to rise above the poverty level, move out of an environment that didn’t nurture us and go away to college. No, college wasn’t the gift that made the difference; it was the environment that we transitioned to that changed all of our lives.
As much as I continuously say that college is not the answer
to life’s problems,
it is the environment that college breeds that will change your destiny if you
choose it. If I had not gone to college, it is equally likely that my son would
be receiving free lunch at school, because I could have gotten pregnant by a man
with little ambition who would drag me down with him. If my son’s father had
not gone to college he would not have met such a beautiful, brilliant young
woman to bear his children or cultivated such amazing and successful friends.
“Daddy says whatever we want to be in life, let him know, and
he’ll introduce us to one of his friends who has done it,” my son said to me.
This is so true. When we went away to the University of
Florida, our pool of friends changed. We began to associate with other young, highly motivated people; even the most likely to slack were light years above
some of the people we left behind in our old neighborhood when it comes to intelligence
Although during our youth it was rare to come into contact
with black doctors, lawyers, nurses, lawmakers, award-winning artists,
entrepreneurs and even writers like me; for my sons it’s an everyday
thing. There is not an impressive
occupation that one of our friends hasn’t flourished in.
The bar for both of my sons' lives were raised when his dad and I decided we wanted more for ourselves and changed our environment. Our children are rich because they are now
surrounded by capable, highly motivated adults who are willing to instruct and
influence them toward any dream they have. We took the first step and
developed dreams for our lives. Our willpower and skill took us—and our kids—the rest of the way.