A young boy was riding his bike home through the alley behind his house, dogs barking and a clicking noise with each turn of the wheels after a long afternoon of adventure. The crew of boys were riding their bikes around the neighborhood after playing hide and seek and tag in the abandoned field. A house had once stood in that corner lot many years before any of the boys had arrived in the neighborhood. Now the field was a sacred battleground for imaginary war games for the children of the neighborhood. Now all that remained were the foundation and sidewalk leading from the street up to where the house used to rest.
Imagination and a desire for adventure were the greatest gifts the kids of the neighborhood had in those days. Clothes were from flee markets, neighborhood garage sales, or hand me downs from older siblings. Christmas and birthdays were the sacred times of receiving a new gift or a fresh pair of jeans that actually fit and did not already have faded areas around the knees. Summer evenings were filled with street soccer and kickball, and weekends were for adventures to the river to hunt for crawdads or fish from the bank for perch and an occasional catfish.
There seemed to be this knowledge that not everything was normal, TV shows and people at Church seemed to live a little different, but as a child there was too much innocence and desire for adventure to know what it was. As age began to overcome childhood innocence the reality finally struck. This whole time we were the poor kids, the ones that seemed to be unimportant to society, the ones that were destined to never amount to much. But we had survived into our teen years without even for a moment realizing it. Instead we had kept our adventure and excitement for the unknown.
This is my story and part of how I came to be the man I am today. I am Brian, the child of a family that grew up as close to poverty and lack as you can imagine. My upbringing was not easy, and has brought so much understanding and wisdom to my life, mostly out of survival and necessity. We grew up on food stamps for years just to have food on our plates. We worked on each car that we owned because there wasn’t extra money to bring it to a mechanic, and junk yards were our parts store because new parts were even too expensive to afford.
But through the lack of money we learned vital skills like helping mow the yard, work on cars, build computers, clean the house, do laundry, fix the washer and dryer when it broke, repair the roof when it leaked, collect eggs from chickens and milk goats for milk to eat cereal in the morning. We learned how to make a variety of meals with pasta and sauce and two pounds of hamburger meat or chicken to feed ten hungry siblings. Oh the lessons a child in poverty learns will never be appreciated or understood by those who grew up with wealth. And these differences in upbringing cause so much difference in the way people find value and importance in different things.
I sometimes wonder what life would have been like if I had grown up in a wealthy family with one or two siblings and parents with established careers. But then I remember all the lessons of life I learned because simply I had to in order to survive. Survival is sometimes the catalyst that is needed for the best growth to take place.
I’m grateful that my parents never gave up, they never threw in the towel, they never quit on giving their best efforts to do all they could to help us grow up loving each other and loving God. We didn’t grow up with the wealth of the world, but we grew up to know the wealth of God’s love and the character of never giving up. We grew up knowing how to find a solution and to embrace the adventure of the unknown that lay ahead for each new day.