How do we lift our children? In everything I try to do, my most important mission is to lift our children. I saw our children lifted in a special way last weekend. Before I get to this special lifting, I want to lay the foundation by sharing a family experience that lifted my children.
When my children were growing up, we would drive to far-off places so they could go along and learn. As we traveled, we shared stories from our life experiences. Among my children’s favorites were the stories of struggle about my growing up. They would ask me over and over again to tell some of the same stories of struggle.
On one such trip to California, our eldest child Malika said, “Daddy, I feel like we are missing something in our lives because we don’t have to struggle as much.” Words of wisdom from a child! I was greatly impacted. How do we lift our children?
The following summer I required each of our children to get a job whether they were paid or not. I wanted them to work and them to struggle. Ainka worked at a restaurant owned by Raymond Major. Kindaka worked at an auto repair shop owned by Mr. Blocton. Malika worked at Dr. David Hodo’s medical office. All three worked without pay. Today, all three are lawyers. One of my best decisions was to help them struggle. How do we lift our children?
Now on to the aforementioned experience: I joined others in Lowndes County to celebrate a unique person. I read a Senate Resolution. I made remarks. So did others. Let me tell you about this person. He is the tenth of 11 children raised by a single mother. He was a student at Central High School in Lowndes County, one of the poorest counties in the United States. He was very quiet. He played football and baseball. In the 11th grade, he began playing basketball. He graduated from high school in 1992 and attended Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio for two years. He attended Virginia Union University, a historically Black university, on a basketball scholarship. He did extremely well, but he was not drafted by the NBA. Upon graduation, he was not even offered a tryout. How do we lift our children?
He found a way to go overseas to play basketball. However, he was cut from that team. He returned to the U.S. After great effort, he was given a tryout by an NBA team. He made the Washington Bullets team, which is now the Washington Wizards. He was barely making it, but he kept struggling. Over the years, he spent time with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Chicago Bulls and the Orlando Magic. He was always struggling and always growing. How do we lift our children?
He made history with the Detroit Pistons. He blossomed into one of the all-time great defensive players in the history of the NBA. He became the first undrafted NBA basketball player to start an All-Star Game. He became the first NBA basketball player to win defensive player of the year for four consecutive years. He was one of two basketball players to have 1,000 rebounds, 100 blocks and 100 steals in a single season. How do we lift our children?
Oh yes, he became a World Champion in 2004 when the Detroit Pistons claimed the NBA title. This was a poor young man from a big poor family who attended a poor school in a poor county and went to a poor college. Initially, he was not even given a tryout by any NBA team. Yet he rose to the very top of his profession. He retired in 2012 after 16 years of success. His jersey number (3) was retired by the Detroit Pistons on January 16, 2016. No Detroit Piston will ever again wear a jersey with that number on it again. People think he ultimately could become the first undrafted player to be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame. How do we lift our children?
I was so glad that our children were at the Town Hall in White Hall, Alabama to hear these stories of struggle and overcoming. When their struggle appears too daunting and the odds against them appear too great, they can remember Ben Wallace. They will find the inspiration to keep on struggling to overcome and striving to be their best. We lift our children by showing them how to embrace struggle and keep on keeping on.
EPILOGUE – I often hear parents say, “I don’t want my children to struggle like I struggled.” They do not understand that they are who they are because they struggled. They do not understand that struggle is a special gift from God.