In a recent conversation with a couple of my good friends we got to talking about growing up, especially growing up poor.
That subject is almost taboo by today’s standards. It is hard to fathom just how poor some folks used to be and especially what had to be done to survive.
We did not have a lot, but we did eat three meals a day and had clothes on our backs.
Almost all of the food my family ate came out of my dad’s garden. I have spent many, many hours hoeing and totin’ water for tomato, pepper and squash plants.
All three of us had those same experiences and our parents had it even worse. All three of us came from sharecroppers, people that literally dug a living out of the ground.
If we considered ourselves poor, they (our parents) would have been dirt poor.
Can you imagine today a child not being able to go to school, because they had to work in the fields to help support their family?
Think about it this way: Our parents’ generation of poor people had to make do with very little.
My Grandfather Spires had nine children by two wives.
His first wife died in 1917 shortly after childbirth.
He was a single parent with five children from twelve all the way down to a newborn. There was no safety net, no social services, no entitlements, but somehow with the help of friends and relatives he managed to scratch out a living and raise his family.
He would, on top of all that, move his family to Gadsden County from Lowndes County, Georgia and eventually remarry and have four more children.
Like my two friends whose parents had similar stories, if not worse in some cases, they were dirt farmers their entire life.
Now to some it may sound like a sad story, but that is where this story takes a strange turn.
As the three of us talked about our families and our own experiences it would have become apparent if you were overhearing our conversation that those experiences made us what we are today.
That does not mean that we became some great or powerful person, but that it gave us a foundation of hard-working, close-to-the-earth people. Our heritage is what it is.
None of the three of us are from royalty or were among the well-to-do. Two of the three are the first in their families to have a college education.
Also out of the conversation came a real truth.
The final truth about who you are does not come from where it started or even your family heritage, but is based on where you are going and what you have made of yourself.
It is also (the truth) based on what you have passed on to those around you, especially your children.