Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going.” (John 8:14)
Whenever I go home to Youngstown, Oh, I always come back fired up. It’s refreshing to be around my parents and my family, it’s fun to show my kids where daddy grew up, and it’s very motivating to never forget where I came from.
My parents wouldn’t agree with me saying this, but we grew up poor. My mom and dad would tell you we had everything, and figuratively speaking we did. It an Italian household, family is everything and fortunately my parents and siblings have all been blessed with good health and positive lives. But financially speaking, we fell into the working poor class.
I didn’t even know I was “poor” until I was working as a social work intern at the age of 22 years old. It hit me. I was helping families attain financial and social resources who had larger household incomes than we did as a family. The federal poverty guidelines for a family of 6 at that time in 2006 was $28,600 (now for 2016 it’s $32,500). There were times when my dad was working at a grocery store while my mom ran a childcare out of our home with a few kids for only a few hundred dollars a month. They weren’t making more than $24,000 as their combined yearly income. We lived in a 900 sq feet house, never went on a family vacation, we drove used station wagons, and we wore Jordache and L.A. Gear shoes from Kmart.
We didn’t have much. But we had plenty.
I often hear this current generation of parents’ concern for wanting to provide a comfortable future for our kids and never wanting them to do without. But I say, why not? I had a gut wrenching epiphany from my way back home after my last trip to Youngstown. My son and daughter will never experience some of the same things I did. Humble, blue collar, sacrificing circumstances that I’m convinced developed my character into what it is today.
They will have no clue what it’s like to have a washer that required my dad to carry buckets of water outside to the backyard during every rinse cycle. Or to sit on the middle console of the $200 used Camaro that six of us squeezed into on our way to grandma’s house for Christmas. Or the excitement we felt when we finally got our first new car (a Geo Prism) in high school and the manual crank windows actually went down. “We got windows!,” we used to all cheer.
My kids live in a big, comfortable house with their own rooms, a basement filled with toys that they don’t even play with, two new cars that their parents don’t have to fix every month because they barely run, and have went on more family vacations in their first few years of life than we did throughout our entire upbringing.
Would I want it any other way? No. Am I grateful and blessed that I have the resources that can provide them with a lifestyle and new experiences that many other children will never experience? Absolutely. There’s nothing wrong with it and there is a lot of good that comes from it. It’s just different. And all I’m saying is that there are some things that no matter how hard Amber and I try, we’ll never be able to teach them.
The other major takeaway for me is that we all have a story. Your story is what makes you who you are and never doubt that it matters. Recently we started digging back into our ancestry even more to learn about our family tree. Our grandparents and great grandparents came over to the U.S. on a boat from Italy with nothing but change in their pockets and faith to reach this land of opportunity. Tell me that isn’t motivating. How could you not take advantage of a life that your bloodline fought hard to create for you? The past doesn’t dictate your future but it does define who you are and we all need to appreciate it.
I know there are times when my parents feel guilty and struggle with the fact that they couldn’t provide us with more. But here’s the thing, they provided us with everything children could ask for. They were there for every baseball game or wrestling match, they were at every meal with us even when they worked third shift, they hugged us every time we even stood near them, and they put us first over everything.
Because of them, I know personally from experience that to be great parents and raise healthy kids we need to love ours so much that it hurts. Our kids will never care about our socioeconomic status. They won’t be concerned with our careers. They’ll remember that we made any sacrifice necessary to love them unconditionally and we did everything in our power to show it. So if we fail at anything else in life, let us not fail at this.
Even though as a life coach in some instances you’ll hear me say never look back, for this one I am. Because I have found so much value in never forgetting where I came from.
What’s your story? I encourage you to discover it, cherish it, and start sharing it today. And it may just be an absolute game-changer for you and everyone in your life.