I would like to believe that I would never forget and that above all, I will always remember who I am and where I come from. I would like to believe that I will never forget what it took me to get to this point, which has nothing to do with success, least of all a monetary number or a bank account. This has nothing to do with where I live or the type of car that I drive. This has nothing to do with a portfolio or net worth because I have learned that money can lose its value. Fame is fleeting, which is not to say that I am famous or anything like that. But popularity is only plastic. The rest of the world is see-thru but if I am to be held to the light; I want to be more than what appears to the eye.
I know that money can come and go. I know that fortunes can turn and so can friends. I know that in an instant, life can change. Anyone and everyone is subject to this fact. No one is insulated from tragedy and that yes; money can buy a lot of things but in no way can money repair a terminal sickness.
I would like to believe that I will never forget the quote that was introduced to me through one of my favorite poets. The quote comes from Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience and says, “What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong, which I condemn.” This means that I cannot forget — even if I want to.
I cannot forget the times when there was nothing in my pockets and my stomach was empty. I cannot forget when there were times that I had to scrounge for quarters and change because I didn’t have enough money to get to work.
I cannot forget the times when doors were slammed in my face or that I was tossed aside or seen as “The help,” and more than anything, I cannot forget the will and the intent that I needed to withstand the times, to keep going, to wake up and to place my feet on the floor when otherwise, all I wanted to do is quit. I can’t forget this. Not once.
I cannot forget the drive it took to surpass myself and overcome my adversities. Nor can I forget the pain, the strain, the sweat and the sleepless nights (like now) when I was on no sleep yet, I had work to do. I had something to finish and as tired as I might have been, I couldn’t stop until my work was accomplished.
I cannot and will not ever allow myself to spoil this sense of humility nor should I ever forget what it felt like to be demeaned or degraded; nor should I forget the way it was when someone who was seen as “Holier than thou” entered the room and demanded attention. I hated this. I hated the “Better-than/Less-than” hypocrisies. There is no hail to the chief. There is no hierarchy, There is no better than or less than and yet, we somehow adhere to the terms of a social chain of command. I find that we perpetuate this machine. We spring the pistons up and down that churns the rumor factories and gossip mills. We judge and we condemn. We allow and we refuse. And what does this do for us?
I understand that I cannot overextend myself nor lend myself out and spread myself too thin. I understand that my aim to remain humble is truly a sense of personal survival and that yes, I am selfish.
I am selfish because I want to feel better. I admit that what I do for the good of others is also to improve the good of myself. I admit that service is rewarding. And yes, I like rewards. I like the fact that I am here, openly admitting to who I am, without decoration or design and no makeup to cover my scars; and whether accepted or not — the reward that I can help or serve anyone is a testament to what I’ve overcome.
I subscribe to the concept that says, “You have to give it away to keep it,” which means that charity is truly the way to keep one’s personal wealth intact. This means that you have to breathe out so that someone around you can breathe in. This means that to be harmonious; I have to learn to sing on either side of the chorus.
Please excuse the upcoming grammar, but in the grand scheme of poetic license, I agree with one of my friends who says, “God don’t like ugly,” which in this respect; I am not offering my beauty or ugliness up to God or anything like that. Not at all.
But more, I want to attribute whatever beauty I have to a sense of humility. That humility is the only true beauty in this world.
I do what I do because I want to be beautiful too. I want to live better and have a better life. Most of all, I want to wake up someday and look back. I want to be proud of what I see and that above all, no matter how far I’ve come or what I’ve accomplished — I want to be able to say that at any rate, I did not lend myself to the wrongs which I condemn.
I have seen what happens when people forget where they come from. I have witnessed the falls of people who stood on shaky ground with nothing but a false sense of pride to secure them.
I have seen what happens when people forget where they come from and become mean. I am of the understanding that with power and position comes responsibility and that while positions and priorities change, this cannot change us as a person.
Years back, there was an author sitting at a table and signing copies of his book. The name of the author is unimportant. However, more important was the way he was and the way he treated people.
I was a few days away from having my first book signing.
There were people who were going to come to a store to buy something that I wrote, which is not to say the book did well or was well written. In a fair assessment, this was a lesson in what “Not” to do and moreover; from a business perspective; I should have paid more attention to the details and the publication of this short story — but this is a story for another time.
I was waiting for the store’s manager to explain what I would need and where I would sit. The manager pointed out the author and explained the way signings worked.
Looking at the author; I thought to myself, “What a jackass!”
Here’s this person who has people standing on a line. They were on line because they wanted the author’s signature on a book that he wrote. And he comes with rules like, “No talking. I’m just here to sign books.”
I have seen people in my professional life who’ve gone from low positions to high. I have seen those who once lived a wild life (and I know this because I still have the pictures) but now that they’ve found a position and an esteemed title; it is interesting to see how they reject their past as if it never happened.
It is interesting to see how people become the part and play the role. But me, I would like to believe that I will never forget and that I will always remember.
I want to believe that no matter where I am or where I sit in the org charts, I will have learned to treat people with dignity; that I will never lend myself to the wrongs that I condemn; that I will understand the nature of people and respect everyone the same way, regardless of their position or their paygrade.
I subscribe to the saying that I was raised to treat the janitor with the same respect as the CEO.
What interests me most is the person who was the janitor and rose to the level of CEO yet, they forget the nights when the dirt wouldn’t wash from their fingers and the stench from their job clung to the hairs in their nose.
I regard one of the most memorable lessons from my Father, The Old Man.
“Never be ashamed that you get your hands dirty. It means you know how to work for a living.” I don’t have to get my hands dirty anymore; at least, not as much.
Most of all, I cannot and will not forget who I am or where I come from because this is what led me to where I am now.
Here. With you.
And as far as I can tell, nothing is worth losing this.
This is why I need to stay humble because what I have means the world to me.