My father drove the van around for what had to be hours. We drove and drove, never arriving at any particular destination. Eventually, he parked in the lot at his job, Borden Dairies (he was a milk truck driver/delivery man, in addition to being a preacher and carpet cleaner at that time). I woke up the next morning just as my dad did, saw him kiss my mother and walk inside. I was a kid and we were homeless.

These are the experiences that are most prominent in my mind as I reflect on my childhood. Were there fun games I played? Sure. Were there good meals I ate? Absolutely. Yet my mind is most bombarded by images like the one above. I automatically revert to the Christmas mornings when my father was watching our reactions but unbeknownst to him, I was intently discerning the pain in his eyes because as a grown man he couldn’t provide Christmas miracles for his children. These are the images that will never leave. More importantly, those images carry pain and although they are not present realities, the scars linger.

Last night I was on the phone with a friend and somehow my childhood came up. Without thinking, I automatically offered the story about sleeping in our van. That is an indication that my childhood still haunts me. Those scars manifest when I attend corporate events and everyone knows what to do except me. They manifest when I’m on a date and the lady opposite of me has to explain how to eat the dish we’ve ordered. They manifest when a client begins to share their vacation experiences and I have little to contribute to the conversation. They manifested when I was afraid to ask questions in class at the major universities I attended for fear that I, one of the few black faces, would appear to validate every stereotype about blacks- especially the not “well to do” ones. This very blog posting is a manifestation. The pain lingers.

It is a private pain, a pain you don’t feel free to discuss. It’s hard enough just trying to blend into the crowd and not do anything to completely humiliate yourself out of your ignorance. Who wants to add to that the ostracism that would follow for appearing “soft” because as a grown man, you’re still trapped in hurts from your boyhood? Hurts not stemming from sexual or physical abuse but hurts that stem simply from what you didn’t have, experience or know and how those things periodically handicap you in your adulthood. As a man, it is expected that you will be hard, tough, aloof and unmoved by anything internal. Would it ever be safe to admit that you are damaged by the things you’ve overcome?

To be fair, not everyone handles poverty in the same way. Frankly, my three siblings never internalized things to the degree I did. My father was the first to make that observation and he’s earnestly pleaded with me many times over to somehow get over the past and my “fear of poverty.” Even so, it is safe to say that poverty does have far reaching consequences, beyond those that can be empirically verified. They can be quite damaging and indeed those who suffer often do so in silence. Knowing this, I feel it imperative to offer my voice on behalf of those who are suffering.

6 comments

JWH

Yes bro. This has always been something big for you. God allowed this in your life in order for you to make a change in the lives of the oppressed.

Duane Terrell

Just be sure you manage your voice. Just because you were raised poor doesn't men you're an expert on poverty and how to fix it. You didn't imply that here I'm just saying.

You take care man, I'm sure your father has said many things a lot better than I could say it so I'll say no more about it.

D.M Hopewell

point well taken. I know many people who've been married who wouldn't know the first thing to tell a person about marriage so…

D.M Hopewell

thx bro! I appreciate the read. But sir…"purify my heart!"

Chezare Warren

I think part of healing is a decision to be healed. That doesn't mean that the physical/human impact is going to be any easier to manage, but it does mean that you are placing a demand on yourself, your mind, your will, and your emotions to move forward. Scars are scars. They may still itch sometime. They may be unattractive when they are seen by others whereby making us self-conscious, but we do have a choice in whether or not we acknowledge them and give them life or a place of prominence in our lives. Further, what brings healing is your willingness to acknowledge that they are there, to no longer fear their presence, but to wear them as a testimony of how much you've overcome. For that, you have MUCH to be proud of. This is the place where our faith can empower us and we are free to receive the peace that it offers. Good post man!

D.M Hopewell

always an honor to have a Ph.D peep me out :)

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