Thursday, July 3, 2014


Conformity with a group, it's customs, practices and beliefs is a pretty natural occurrence in our lives. At times, we have little choice and must conform if we are to have our most basic needs met. In such instances, we will try our best to gravitate towards a place of welcoming, comfort in some measure, and protection.

As a foster youth in the State of New Jersey in the United States, on numerous occasions I had to join a different family to avoid being homeless, starving or being physically or sexually abused. I didn't always know what kind of situation I was getting myself into or the long-term impact that specific living arrangements would have on my personal development or sense of belonging. My primary objective was always to simply make the best of the situation while hoping for a good outcome.

It is probably fair to say, that today many teenagers end up joining youth gangs for many of the very same reasons. In the thick of abandonment, anxiety, depression, immaturity, neglect, reluctance and self-inflicted separation there are things that I have done in the past which I will forever be ashamed of out of ignorance, regret and ultimately a growing sense of awakening.

Where would I be now without second-chances? Only God knows.

The truth is, that I was rescued, again and again from external harm and at other times from myself.

Why? To that question I still don't have the full answer. However, what I can tell you is that the named and the nameless both saw fit to intervene in my life. Through their act of compassion, charity and love I learned how and became committed to practicing making better choices in my life. Without their tremendous generosity, I most likely would have ended up as profane, vulgar and close to pushing the limit of aggressive behavior as a good number of today's urban 'gansta' youth. I could very easily have become another black male statistic. I was raised by a single mother on welfare who suffered from alcoholism and depression, abandoned by a father who spent many years in jail, was a womanizer, and left a trail of fatherless children across three states. The only thing that I will say to you is that I didn't ask for any of that. And of course, I wish that we had all been worth more than that to him.

Eventually, I found myself left with three choices: be a victim, a by product or a 'breakout artist'. Quite unknowingly at the time, I chose to be the latter, someone who escapes the grips of a poverty of poor habits and thinking and desperately seeks to eventually find the answers that may well facilitate others becoming more greatly empowered to do the same reasoning for themselves. I truly believe that there is still an awful lot of important work to be done. And, if I am capable of finding a way to do it, then you can do it too.

You don't have to conform to others. Just choose who you intend to become!