I’ve always believed God places certain people in your life at certain times. I have been blessed with a great number of influential people throughout my life - from high school friends who let me be myself to mentors who have helped me make the most of myself. Throughout, there has been one person who has always been in my life. My mother.
Without insufficiently stating her impact and influence on the person I am and aspire to become, I must say my mother is the only role model I’ve ever had.
Often times, black youths, or for that matter any youths in disadvantaged or low-income environments, lack true role models. Instead, these children and young adults idolize professional athletes, entertainers and musicians. Not to denigrate these individuals and their contributions in the community, particularly in black and inner-city communities, but I was blessed with a truly one-of-a-kind role model in my own home and my life each and everyday.
My mother was always there to make sure her three boys would grow to become three successful men. As the youngest of that trio, I am proud to let her know I whole-heartedly believe she couldn’t have done a better job.
And this is not to say she is the only single mother of three (boys, especially). Nor is she the only woman to raise herself and her family out of welfare. However, my mother is the only mother I’ve ever had and has doubled as the most dedicated and hardworking person I have ever known.
Now I bring this up not to profile my mother, the setbacks she overcame, and the feats she accomplished, but more so to share the great many lessons she taught me. Among them are prioritizing, patience, and planning. Above all, these three Ps are the most important lessons my mother shared with me.
By priorities, I’m referring to the ability to set them and follow through with them. The significance of this life lesson cannot be understated. While my father was absent and halfway across the country doing God knows what, my mother made sure my brothers and I were being provided for. She went on the occasional date, had fun and made sure to spend time with friends, but mostly, my mom was either working overtime, putting a meal on the dinner table or shopping for bargains at the local Goodwill or K-Mart.
From this, I learned that only through efficient and careful prioritizing can one achieve anything worth being proud of.
Not because my mother pushed me, but because she encouraged me was I able to make education a priority in my life from a young age. Though no one in my family had a college degree, I always knew I’d graduate from a top-tier university. It was my priority.
Ten years after jotting down The University of Texas at Austin as one of my top-tier college prospects, albeit as a 7th grader, I was able to walk across the stage as a graduate of that same institution. With my mother watching, eyes watering and gleaming all at once.
Today, I continue setting goals and prioritizing my life to achieve them, but like prioritizing, one cannot achieve anything without a great amount of patience. Thankfully, again, I learned from the best.
For nearly 25 years, my mother strived to purchase her own home. She went from minimum wage to her currently salary, all the while with the same goal in mind. As many single mothers can attest to, she spent many of those years repairing credit mishaps of younger years passed and getting income stability. Still, many more of those years were spent waiting. Being patient.
Finally, at the youthful age of 45, the mother of three adult sons, has accomplished her greatest feat. She became a homeowner.
Following in the footsteps of my mother, I have learned the importance of being patient. Just recently, I contemplated a move back to Austin after just 12 months away before convincing myself to stay put in D.C. where, perhaps, bigger things await. If I only wait and find out. So here I am, being patient.
Will I be rewarded for my patience? So far all evidence points to yes. However, all the prioritizing and patience in the world can’t offset no or insufficient planning.
More times than I care to remember, I’ve seen capable members of the black community fail because of poor planning. The ambition, drive and talent may all be there, but the planning is weak. Where Tiger Woods had his father Earl to help him master his skills and reach his lofty goals, many other young men in the black community live without fathers to usher them from ambition to accomplishment. And many young black women lack the know-how to avoid the social ills that force them into all-too-familiar positions as child bearers instead of college students.
I, too, missed many of the lessons and comforts availed to those with fathers, but my mother never let me think I’d achieve anything without planning. Whether it was how I’d spend my grass-cutting money on or what I’d do with my after-school time, I did my best to keep my mother’s practices in mind.
Setting priorities, being patient and making a plan. My mother never said those words precisely, but she put them in practice every single day. As I continue growing and goal-setting, the examples and lessons she provided continue to serve as my life’s compass.
Creating a path, providing life lessons, and leading by example are the true qualities of a role model. We do not all have mothers and fathers. Some of us may even go without either. Still, as I mentioned earlier, God finds a way to put someone in your life who may be able to fill this role.
I’m sure a great many of you, like myself, owe your lives to your role models.
(As written for Diatribes by Joah on March 8, 2007)