Sunday, February 26, 2017

Built to Last

By Jon Dunnemann

272 Lincoln Street

The house above is located at 272 Lincoln Street in East Orange, NJ and it's where I lived back in 1970 while a sophomore student attending Clifford J. Scott High School. 

It was the second of three families that I would live with as a New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services foster child. 

The five bedroom, 3 bathroom residence was home to a group of African American Muslim men all working, actively serving their local community, and going to school to further their education in a variety of fields (Business, education, government, law, and information technology). 

Before relocating to East Orange, I happily lived with an Irish Catholic American family, the Garlette family, for one year at 58 Gould Place in Caldwell, NJ while enrolled at Grover Cleveland Junior High School as a freshman student.

During the remainder of my high school years and when not away at the College of the Holy Cross (an Irish Catholic Jesuit college) located in Worcester, MA, I lived with Daniel Butler and his Mom, Mrs. Jessie Butler who was my legal guardian until I turned 18 years old. Mrs. Butler was from the City of Opelika, Alabama and she always insisted that Danny and I attend the First Baptist Church of Vauxhall with her on Sundays or else forget about it!!   

Well, I guess that the combination of all this exposure makes me an African American Muslim, Irish Catholic, and Southern Baptist Christian. Undoubtedly, like so many other Americans of my generation, I am a product of the many generous people that I've lived with, have gone to school with, been loved by, and of course have been taught and mentored by.  I had the monumental good fortune of not being left alone to simply fend for oneself. This along with the richness of diversity that I have encountered along the way has overwhelmingly shaped my values, aspirations, spirituality, and enormous love for our country.

My life has been a journey from that of a welfare child, to foster kid, to struggling youth, to now adult well-being. I do not refer to it as a walk in the park but it certainly has remained filled with great hope and possibility even now as I seek to prepare myself to push through to the next growth phase in my overall development.  I am immensely delighted in knowing that I will continue to have you as a guest traveling with me as I take each new step along the continuing path of growth and perpetual resilience.  

To everyone who has provided assistance to me, thank you so much for your kindness and support.

May God's many blessings always be richly upon you and your family.