A few weekends ago I had the privilege of spending a few days with my dad’s brother and his family in the area they grew up; the Jersey side of Philadelphia. I have heard stories of where they grew up, but those were all just stories to me. It was not easy to picture what it looked like for them when they grew up without being able to witness it. But, I finally got the chance to go there and see what it was like for my dad and his family. And I have to say, it truly put into perspective the difficulties he and his family endured.
My wife and I are big believers in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace teachings and lifestyle. Our goal is to live debt free and have money to give, save and spend. Also, we never want to allow money, or the lack of it, dictate our choices and direction of our lives. In many poverty stricken neighborhoods, money remains one of the biggest reasons there are generations upon generations trapped in poverty. In my story over the next few days I will share how my dad grew up in extreme poverty but managed to get himself out of that life. But also, I want to go into what it means for my life and how I plan on handling finances and why it matters on so many levels.
Witnessing the actual area and conditions of their childhood puts everything in a new light and has allowed me to gain a better understanding and appreciation. With that, I received a greater level of responsibility with what I do in my life. Over the next few days I am going to cover these 3 topics in relation to my dad’s story:
- Growing up in poverty- generational curse
- Getting out- sacrifice and vision
- Responsibility for next generation- what am I going to do?
There is little you can do about where you were born and raised. The choices of your parents dictate much of your growth and development and can make it difficult to see the “greener pastures” of life. When you are so deep into the way of life your parents chose, you may see the greater ways to live, but believe it is out of your reach. Mentalities like this is what binds families to live in poverty. (Disclaimer: I am not saying those in poverty and living with very, very little are evil or that they cannot amount to anything. Please hear my heart in this.) When I say “curse” what I mean is we are more inclined to repeat what our parents did, because it is what their parents did, and it was all we ever knew. And maybe even further, there was no belief of getting out of poverty. Which is where the word “curse” comes in. It feels like a curse because it becomes a trap and keep us in bondage. Not that we are “cursed” to how our parents lived, but feeling cursed because it is so difficult to get out of the thing we know.
My dad was the oldest and he had 4 brothers and 2 sisters. My dad had a different father than the rest of his siblings, but he was adopted into the family and was with them from day 1. My dad and his siblings grew up without money, but before that, his parents were in dire straits. Before all the child labor laws passed, my grandpa grew up in work camps for children. At a very young age, he worked and labored and lived similarly to a slave. He, along with his siblings, were removed by family members and then taken in by them. They grew up in a family and with his brothers and sisters, but money was always lacking.
Sometimes life will throw everything it has at you in a short amount of time. We have all heard the saying, “when it rains, it pours.” This couldn’t be anymore true for my dad and his family. Blue collar work, risk of injury, terrible recession, a strike, business closing, a fire destroying their house and lack of employment. My dad and his siblings began working at a very young age in order to help put food on the table. 10-12 year olds going out to work in order to make a few dollars. I am sure my dad and his family felt that if something could go wrong, it would. They grew up near a trash dump and my grandpa spent his days rummaging through the trash in order to find copper, aluminum and anything else he could trade in for some money. Times were tough and there did not seem to be an end in sight.
It is difficult for me to comprehend how just one generation removed from now, my dad was living at the bottom of the barrel, not knowing where his next meal would come from and doing whatever he needed to in order to get through the day. Breaks my heart to know my dad and his family lived this way, and it hurts to imagine all the people living the same way today.
If there is a silver lining to growing up as they did is that it developed a work ethic few could match and a drive within to survive that could translate into a desire to win. No one wants to suffer and endure the difficulties of life. We want the abs without the planks. We want the paycheck without the work. But, oftentimes the most difficult situations we endure produces the greatest results. You can either get bitter, or you can get better. Tomorrow, I am going to write about how my dad and one of his brother’s chose to get better instead of getting bitter and what it did for their lives.
If I can leave you with a challenge today it would be this: look at the worst things that have happened to you with a different perspective. Put a positive spin on it. This is going to be difficult and may be forced, but choose to find the silver lining. An example, I lost my dad when I was 7, so I grew up playing sports without my dad in the stands watching me. Silver lining: an inner strength was developed in me and a sensitivity towards others who are dealing with, or have dealt with, something similar to what I endured. Would I rather had my dad around? You bet! But, looking at where I’m at today, I know God used that awful situation to create something in me to prepare me for what He has for me. Romans 8:28- “And we know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and live according to His purposes”. Have you dealt with a divorce? Did you endure a miscarriage? Has your business failed? Are you scared of how you will make it to the next paycheck? Did you get fired unjustly? Crappy things will happen in your life, choose to view them from a different perspective and be open to learning and growing through the difficult things. I dare you.