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From Welfare to WealthA True Testimony of Faith and The Power of Positive Thinking
By Veronica L. Reed
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Veronica L. Reed
All right reserved.
Chapter 1: My Life With Welfare ... The Beginning....................1
Chapter 2: 69th and 74th Streets....................6
Chapter 3: Daddy's House and The Year that Changed My Life....................10
Chapter 4: Junior High School Passion and Alterations....................16
Lesson I: Take from life those experiences that make you a better person, because every one of us has the ability to demonstrate goodness in some way-our own way. Chapter 5: High School and Independence....................25
Lesson II: Determination will influence your destiny. Lesson III: Dream it, believe it, and you shall see it! Chapter 6: Life-Changing Experiences....................34
Lesson IV: Children are people too. Chapter 7: High School Passion....................41
Lesson V: Life is truly what you make it, by what you desire. Lesson VI: To live is to give. Chapter 8: Fear and Turning Points....................52
Chapter 9: A Potential Roadblock....................62
Chapter 10: My College Beginnings....................66
Chapter 11: College and More Turning Points....................72
Lesson VII: Optimism and Intrinsic Motivation are Keys to Success Chapter 12: Life Beyond College....................77
Lesson VIII: God always places people around us to help guide us. Chapter 13: More College, and Then AIDS....................83
Lesson IX: God gives us all freedom of choice and free will. Chapter 14: A Blessing and a Curse....................87
Lesson X: Everything happens for a reason. Chapter 15: Learning How to Forgive....................93
Lesson XI: Focus on that which is positive. Chapter 16: Graduate School....................96
Lesson XII: Life is about helping and encouraging others to reach their fullest potential. Chapter 17: AIDS and Willpower....................103
Chapter 18: Life After Someone Else's Death....................108
Lesson XIII: Motherhood and womanhood are responsibilities that shape the future for a lifetime. Lesson XIV: "We become what we think about."-Earl Nightingale Chapter 19: Time to Move On to A New Adventure....................119
Lesson XV: Life is about sacrifices. Chapter 20: The Work/Career "Life Cycle"....................125
Chapter 21: Obtaining Work/Life Balance....................128
Chapter 22: Deciding Which Way to Turn....................133
Lesson XVI: Always turn to your Spiritual Maker Chapter 23: We Can Make Life What We Want It To Be....................138
Lesson XVII: See yourself not as someone in need, but someone with the power to help others. Chapter 24: From Family Pain to Great Endeavors....................149
Lesson XVIII: Faith is knowing that the things, which you cannot see, truly can and will exist. Chapter 25: For Closure and Inspiration.... Be Inspired....................160
Final Lesson: As you share your talents with the world, the world will share its talents with you. Author Insights....................165
On Buying and Maintaining Real Estate....................165
On Life and the Gift of Giving....................178
Recommended Reading and Listening....................185
My Life With Welfare ... The Beginning
In 1968, when my mother left Summit, Mississippi and migrated to Los Angeles, she had just filed for divorce and was also pregnant with her husband's last child, my sister Peggy. Since she had no husband and no job, and was merely looking for a way out of her miserable marriage and a new start on life, she applied for welfare. This is how my life with welfare began. Three years after coming to California, my mother gave birth to her 5th and final child ... me.
And since she was unmarried and unemployed, she was still eligible for welfare.
My experience growing up on welfare is what made me realize, even as a kid, that I wanted no part of welfare when I grew up. I can remember vividly the day in particular that made me despise welfare, and vow that I would never rely on such a system to raise my family, should I ever have one. It happened when I was in the fourth or fifth grade - a time in my life when I battled with shyness and sensitivity, especially when I had to participate in something I wasn't fond of.
That day, some of my classmates and I were selected to participate in our school chorus for the upcoming holiday program. After lunch, we were sent to the auditorium where we were under the supervision and guidance of the music teacher, Ms. McDaniel. During the music rehearsal, the remainder of our class was having a lesson on safety, which was being led by some special visitors from our local fire department. Of course my other classmates and I were going to miss this valuable safety lesson because we had to go to the auditorium for music. As irony would have it, my interests at the moment were more powerfully on safety than music.
I have no idea why I felt so strongly. But I did. So I battled with my shyness, pulled together all my courage and marched up to Ms. McDaniel. "Please," I asked her, "Can I be excused so I can go back to my class and learn about safety?"
Ms. McDaniel frowned down at me. She loved music, so she didn't appreciate nor understand my request - and took the liberty of letting everyone in the auditorium know how she felt about it. She yelled, "You want to learn about safety instead of music? What kind of sense does that make?"
Naturally I felt shattered. Through the remainder of music class, I sat counting the minutes until I could escape and go home.
When school was dismissed, two of my best friends, La Keesha and Kathryn (who had witnessed my embarrassing moment), walked me to my mother's car with great empathy. When we got to the car, I explained to my mother, through teary eyes, the horrible experience I had just had. Unfortunately this event happened to have fallen on either the 1st or the 15th of the month, the two days that welfare checks were issued. My mother had received her check.
"I've got to go somewhere, and I'm in a hurry," she told me brusquely. "I don't have time to deal with your little music-teacher thing."
Kathryn and La Keesha looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders - they knew that this was as far as it was going to go. My mother hurried me into the car and off we went to Bank of America's L.A. Industrial Branch on Gage Avenue and Avalon Boulevard, so she could cash her check.
That day had a tremendous impact on my life. For as long as I lived on this Earth, I would see to it that I didn't ever need to rely on welfare to take care of myself. Because at that moment, as a nine- or ten-year-old who just wanted a little reassurance that I hadn't done anything wrong to deserve Ms. McDaniel's yelling, I had been made to feel that a welfare check was more important to my mother than I was. From that day forward, the mere mention of "welfare" made me feel resentful.
Now, as I look back on that day, I am elated that it happened. This incident alone gave me the strength and determination that I would not allow any form of governmental assistance to take care of me. That moment also played a role in my desire to give my future children (should I ever have any) the attention they deserved. Not that my mother was being a bad mother - she wasn't. I understand now that she just wanted to beat the crowds to the bank, so she could make it home in a timely manner to get dinner going and complete her other motherly duties for the day.
I need to make an important point about welfare. At this particular time in American history (back in the 70's and early 80's), if you were an adult receiving welfare, your view of life was probably a bit tarnished and non-motivated. Since you were not allowed to work, be married, or have an adult male living in the home, your outlook on life was probably quite dismal at times, because your only means of receiving this minimal amount of income was through having children. The more children you had, the more income you would receive.
Considering that welfare was a form of "governmental assistance," I ask the question, "What other forms of income was welfare assisting?" Bearing in mind that "assistance" is a form of the word "assist," let's explore the meaning of this word. According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the definition is "to give usually supplementary support or aid to." Supplementary means that something is added, or provided in addition to. So if welfare was considered "governmental assistance" and the mother seeking welfare could not be working, married or have any type of male provider living with her and her children, would it have been ok for this mom to have had a "female" provider in the home? All right, we won't go there, but do you see where I am going with this? According to the rules, there was no possibility that the mother could have any other income, so why then was welfare considered "government assistance"?
Was it considered to be in addition to the "food stamps" that anyone on welfare could also receive? But food stamps are not income. So a more appropriate term for welfare back then should have been "government income," because as a mother receiving it during this time, this was your job. All applicants were welcome, and encouraged to apply because, whether you were a novice mother or a professional one, all were accepted as long as you did not have any other "legal" methods of generating income to help yourself and the family you were attempting to raise.
Now if that wasn't a backwards and demoralizing system, I don't know what is! Can you understand now why I despised such a system? Hopefully you do.
However, Mama was more enterprising than many welfare mothers at that time. She utilized her free time to volunteer at our elementary school. For as far back as I can remember, my mother had served as president of the Parent-Teachers Association (PTA) at Sixty-Sixth Street Elementary school in Los Angeles, which is where all of my siblings and I attended during our elementary years. Mama was very active with both the PTA and the Advisory Council from the mid 70's to the early 80's. These were parent organizations of the Los Angeles Unified School District that allowed parents to have an active voice in their child's education. Mama did this faithfully until I graduated from Sixty-Sixth Street School in 1983.
69th and 74th Streets
Fortunately, Mama did have other "unofficial" financial assistance for our family. This was provided by my father, Clark. "Daddy," as I affectionately called him, had always been there for Mama ever since she was pregnant with me. He had his own home that he owned in Los Angeles and therefore did not live with us. But he did spend many days and nights at our home.
During our earliest time in Los Angeles, Mama and I, plus my brother Charles and my three sisters-Margaret, Tanya and Peggy - all lived in a home that Mama rented. First we lived in a duplex on 70th Street between Main Street and San Pedro Street. A few years later Mama found a bigger house to rent in a noisy neighborhood around the corner on 69th Street. That was where we lived for most of my elementary years.
The 69th Street community consisted of African-American and Hispanic families with both young and teenaged children. Most of us would spend many of our non-school hours playing with each other uproariously up and down the street. With this mixture of ages and cultures, 69th Street was always lively to say the least.
One Saturday or Sunday afternoon, my sister Peggy was chasing me in front of our house, between the street and our front yard. As I ran across the sidewalk, I collided with Derrick, a teenager who lived up the street, as he rode his ten-speed bike. Mama had to take me to the hospital with a broken leg. When we returned home, my siblings and a few of the other kids on the block all signed the cast on my leg, which I thought was very cool.
Another 69th Street incident happened at the home of the family next door to us to the west. The family consisted of the mom, her husband Wilson, and her three children. Actually her two oldest children were by previous relationships, while her youngest daughter Bradley was she and Wilson's child. Her son Thomas was the oldest, about 12 years of age. Everyone called him Tom for short. Her middle child was a daughter named Tammy, about 7 years old. Her youngest daughter, Bradley, was about 5.
Tammy and I were neighborhood friends, so sometimes we played at her house and other times at mine, running back and forth between the two houses. Tammy's house was actually a duplex - she and her family resided in the front and her grandmother and aunts lived in the back. Her stepfather Wilson had always made me rather nervous because at times I would catch him staring at me for some reason. One day while we were playing at Tammy's home, Wilson for some reason wanted to give me a kiss on my cheek.
I don't recall whether it was Wilson or Tammy's mom that called us into the room where the two of them were sitting, but Wilson proceeded to pull me close to him in order to give me the kiss. Well, considering he wasn't my father and didn't have any relation to me, I wasn't too cool with this. So I resisted as much as possible, pulling myself as hard as I could in the opposite direction. Wilson was a tall man of about six feet, and quite muscular and fit, so my 7- or 8-year-old strength couldn't stand up to his manly power. He succeeded in landing a kiss on my cheek, and remarked to Tammy's mom that I was quite strong.
But that was the last kiss he ever got from me. After that, I remained out of dodge and never went to Tammy's house if he was at home. That incident made me very uncomfortable, and I was unsure whether he would want to continue giving me so-called "innocent" kisses on my cheek.
When incidents like this happened, or other experiences beyond my control that caused some sort of discomfort or trauma, whether for me or another person, I would become very nervous as a result. Since I don't particularly enjoy being under duress, I do whatever it takes to avoid such circumstances. You don't have to tell me twice to get out of the house if it is on fire.
What I learned from this experience was something that my husband and I tell our daughter today: "Use your own brain and do not allow others to think for you."
Once other people have the power to manipulate your life, you had better be sure that they have your best interests at heart, otherwise this type of maneuver can potentially place yourself in an unwanted or dangerous situation. Always think for yourself and utilize the experiences of others as guides, and you will do quite well in life.
If you are a child, then of course you must also rely on the direction and input of your parents. However, here again, you can use your own brain. It's risky to rely on the brains of your peers, because they don't have any more experience than you do. When in doubt, consult with an adult who has your best interest at heart, and you will be saved from having to engage in experiences which could be detrimental to you and your future.
As my readers can surely tell, 69th Street rarely had a dull moment. There was always something to stimulate the residents of our block.
Then, just before I finished 6th grade, Mama and my four siblings and I moved into Daddy's house on 74th Street, in the heart of Los Angeles. According to Mama, the owner of the house on 69th Street needed it for his daughter, who had previously been an actress, as I remember. She was now moving back into town, therefore it was necessary for us to find a new home. I don't remember exactly how the arrangements came about for us to move into Daddy's home, but that is where we headed.
74th Street was located in an area of Los Angeles that was much quieter than 69th Street, although it was less than a mile away. Located east of Avalon Blvd. and south of Florence Ave., it was one of those communities that just grow on a person. It consisted mostly of elderly households, and was very peaceful. During the time that we lived there, the feeling around the neighborhood was one of comfort. It really gave me a home-loving feeling - I wanted to stay there for as long as possible.
Daddy's House and The Year that Changed My Life
Daddy's house was on a modest corner lot of about 3100 square feet. He had lived alone for a fairly long time. His only other child, George Jr., was grown and lived in Louisiana with his own wife and son. Daddy's house was therefore quite small - much smaller than our rental home on 69th Street. He only needed enough room for himself, with one extra bedroom for guests. So the house's living space was about 800 sq. ft. with 2 bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen and one bathroom.
There were now two adults and five children in this small, 2-bedroom home, which appeared to have more space in the backyard than it did inside! So Daddy had an enclosed patio added on to the back of the house, which is where my three sisters and I slept. I actually enjoyed our new room, which because of its new construction, encompassed the smell of new carpet. It had the pre-fabricated walls and ceilings found in most enclosed patios in Southern California.
I really enjoyed rainy days and nights in our new room. When there was a hard rain, it sounded as though there was a horse stampede running across the roof! This never frightened me since I knew it was just rain. I've always enjoyed being close to nature, so the sound of the thunderous rain made me feel relatively peaceful inside.
It was now 1983. We had been living with Daddy for a little while and had finally become acclimated to our new community. I was now in the sixth grade, nearing the end of my elementary-school adventure. I recall always making A's or B's on my report card (most of which were A's) throughout all of my elementary years.
Excerpted from From Welfare to Wealth by Veronica L. Reed Copyright © 2010 by Veronica L. Reed. Excerpted by permission.
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