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School Begins

August 19th, 2014

It’s Harvest Season

Today two of my friends from church are going to the University of Miami for orientation. Both have been in college before, but they are finishing up at UM, which is a better school than the places where they started. Both are on scholarship. Another friend is starting at FAMU, and she’ll be transferring to FSU as soon as she gets the green light. Others I don’t know as well are starting at other universities.

My church’s Sunday attendance is probably around 175, including a lot of kids and babies, and most of the people there don’t have parents or grandparents who went to college, so five or six success stories amount to a significant wave of victories.

At my old church, we were always told that if we gave them enough money, God would make us successful. But people generally did not succeed. We didn’t see a lot of scholarships and diplomas. The leaders didn’t care. They were building their personal “brands.” I put that word in quotation marks, because it’s the kind of term that was dear to their hearts.

Travis is 24. He plays over a dozen instruments. He arranges and composes. He was an armorbearer at my old church. He has gotten into some trouble in the past, and his college career was put on hold years ago. At some point the UM music school accepted him, but he was dragged off the path. He worked at a county facility, teaching percussion to kids part-time.

He talked about going back to FAMU, which is not a great school. It’s an “HBCU,” which means “Historically Black.” I discouraged him from going back. I’m sorry, but those places are generally dumps. According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, their graduation rate is around 30%, and no one respects the degrees, because these outfits don’t have to compete with real schools. Call me a bad guy if you want. The truth is the truth. If you want to go and be taught that you’re a victim and that the world owes you a great job, go to an HBCU. If you want to improve yourself and your life, go to a real college.

Earlier this year, he slipped off on his own and auditioned, and UM accepted him again. At first, he got a partial scholarship, but very soon it was upgraded to a full ride.

Young black people are brainwashed about the things they supposedly owe “the community.” This is the community that provides them with bad values, danger, and restricted opportunity. Not sure how that generates a debt. I always tell him to forget the community. If you love it, leave, get rich, and go back and help out on the weekends. His neighborhood was a horrible influence on him, and his “friends” were poisonous and counterproductive. I kept telling him his future was somewhere else, and that he would need to get used to better surroundings and to people who didn’t drag him backward.

After he got his scholarship, terrible challenges started popping up to derail him. I told him that his friends had a mission: keep him alive until August. He said other people had told him the same thing. He made it. He’ll be at orientation today.

I don’t know Tina well. Her sister Carmelisa had to raise her. I don’t know if her parents are alive, but they are not around. By the time Tina was 18, she already had a pile of college credits. She competed in beauty pageants in order to get ahead. She won some sort of scholarship from Johnson & Wales, which is known for culinary schools. They also offer things like accounting. I believe she is still 18, and she only has two years left to go. She’s going to study business management and computer science.

I think Carmelisa is freaking out, because Tina is leaving her house and moving into a dorm.

I just got interrupted by a call from Travis. I wish I had met him over there today. He’s having the time of his life. He’s meeting his trombone professor today. He’s touring the facilities. He’s checking out the girls; that’s not good. Maybe I’ll meet him for lunch.

Freddelle is the one who went to FAMU this semester. FAMU is in Tallahassee. Her sister and her sister’s boyfriend drove her up on Sunday after church. Her sister’s son is my godson.

I don’t want to get into anyone’s business online, but her family is not ideal. Her sister is in her mid-20s, and sometimes Freddelle calls her “mom.” That shows you what their relationship is like. Her sister dedicated her existence to protecting Freddelle from the things that happened to her.

Freddelle wants to be a lawyer. She got her associate’s degree this year, and we went to a Brazilian restaurant to celebrate. When she left church for Tallahassee, she told me I was on the hook for Thanksgiving dinner.

God does give people success, but it’s not because they give him money. It’s because they give him themselves. This is what we learn at New Dawn Ministries. Trinity Church teaches people to withhold themselves from God and extract whatever they can from him. Maybe that’s why they don’t receive much.

I didn’t expect this to be an emotional day for me, but it is. For some reason, it’s difficult. I guess this is what my mother went through when she left me at Columbia University in 1979. She used to call and say she missed hearing my car pull up out front after school. I don’t think that was really it, though. Travis is actually getting closer to me, and I’ll see more of him, but I still feel this way.

My dad really missed out on a lot. I don’t think he’ll ever understand.

God wants us to invest in the fatherless. They will become our sons and daughters.

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2 Responses to “School Begins”

  1. Ruth H Says:

    You definitely have your parent hat on. Congratulations, you don’t have to be in on the birth to be a DAD.

  2. Steve Says:

    Steve,

    Thank you for telling this story. I am Scoutmaster for my son’s troop and we started back this week. I have a number of single moms whose son I have the blessing to mentor.

    Thank you for the reminder of the honor – and the responsibility – entrusted to me.

    I pray your friends go on to do great works in the employment of Jesus.

    Steve,
    Morrow, Ohio