June 23. “Regardless of your lot in life, you can build something beautiful on it.” (Zig Ziglar)
Today’s quote provides a nice follow-up to the quotes of the past two days. On Saturday the quote reminded me of the power of reading and gaining knowledge. Yesterday’s quote was an affirmation of the idea that happiness isn’t a fleeting feeling, but a state of being. And today I am reminded that no matter what my circumstances in life, there is something beautiful that can be built upon it.
No one would ever confuse my birth and upbringing as that of a person born with a silver spoon in their mouth. My parents, siblings and I came from humble beginnings. Until shortly after I was born, my family lived in a series of apartments in the city of Cleveland. Every few years they would pack up their belongings and move to another place. Sometimes they moved because the neighborhood had declined, other times it was to follow work.
When I was 4 years old, my parents bought the only house they ever owned. It was a large colonial home on a tree-lined street. The neighborhood had many children, a good Catholic School within walking distance, and access to public transportation (we did not own a car). I am certain it had to feel like a slice of heaven for my parents. More than any other place, that is where I grew up.
After my dad died things remained tight financially. My mother worked hard to provide for us, and we got by. When I was a child I never thought of myself as being poor. I didn’t know how little money we had, and it didn’t matter. What mattered was that we had this little plot of land that was ours. I learned early that owning a home took a lot of work. I learned that planning flowers and maintaining a yard will make any home a little nicer. Vacuuming the carpet, scrubbing the walls, washing the windows, and polishing the furniture were all things done on a regular basis to keep the house in order.
In a very literal sense, the way that we kept up our house fit this quote. Our lot was small, and the house was older, but we took pride to make it a good home, and something that was beautiful.
But more importantly I learned the metaphorical side of this quote. It didn’t matter what social stratus I was born into. I learned to carry myself with pride, and to make something out of life. I was taught that looking for a handout wasn’t acceptable. Anything I received, I earned, or was borrowed. What was borrowed was returned with a little extra.
Today I am reflecting on those humble beginnings.