A Profound Saturday Morning Email
Last weekend I received an inspiring quote about boldness from an unexpected source early on Saturday morning. I quickly quipped back with a bit of sarcasm to the email in jest, but after a reread, I realized that the quote was a perfect description of the wise man who sent it and the handful of gladiators on the receiving end of it.
We are "those" people. The unabashedly bold and passionate types that believe so much in right over wrong that we have magnetically attracted each other. Even those that are on the cusp by mere association with us, and are not yet sucked completely into the nucleus of non-conformity tend to come to our aid when we need them the most.
They Always Say That The First Step is Admitting You Have a Problem
I started to come to grips with the fact that I color outside lines about 25 years ago as an undergrad. I embraced it in my late teens and I lived with it ever since. It was in my 30s that I was reminded of its origins. One of the first things my aunt presented me and my cousin with upon my grandmother’s passing was a collection of old school records in a brown Manila envelope. From pre-k through elementary school, it appeared that she had kept every report card, award, honor, note from a teacher and even my piano teacher's notes. After I arrived home from her funeral I looked through all of them with my daughter. While she was focused on the letter grades, I was reading some of the commentary the teachers wrote about me and the theme was pretty consistent. Old reports cards, especially when hand written in ink that never seems to fade, just don't lie.
"Tonya is an excellent student but let's work on listening to learn."
"Tonya's class work and test scores are high."
"Tonya has good writing skills and is very creative."
"Tonya has practiced her lessons well this month, but often improvises."
"Tonya talks too much in class and distracts her classmates."
"Tonya has strong opinions and shares them with her classmates."
"Tonya articulates at a different level than her friends."
"Tonya is very artistic but uses the wrong number colors and does not follow instructions."
The Short Bus To Freedom
It's true, I was a talker in school and I loved to be challenged. I was also a kid who enjoyed watching the evening news at age four, who read the Weekly Reader from cover to cover and who's idols were Jessica Savage and Linda Ellerbee by the time I was 7. I knew at an early age that the only way for a person who looked like me to be heard in this country was to tell people things that they needed to know. I guess I must have sensed it. Growing up watching pastors in the church, and by watching my grandmother teach in school, I was surrounded by passionate people who were listened to. And because they were listened to, they were able to make things happen. Later in life, that manifested itself in my writing and later in the world of philanthropy.
I often wonder what would have happened to me if my grandmother had not been a teacher in the Chester County School District. If not for her, I might have been on the first short bus to nowhere. I am grateful that she allowed my creative, game-changing spirit to embrace the freedom of being bold.