I was born lucky. By born lucky I mean two hours after I was born, I contracted viral meningitis, and the doctor incorrectly said I wouldn’t make it through the night. By born lucky I mean the doctors continued to say I wouldn’t survive as night after night I pulled through. By born lucky I mean they said it was a miracle that my fever broke. By born lucky I mean that they told my parents to expect a disability like blindness, deafness, or cerebral palsy that never came to pass. My mom would routinely tell me “You were lucky in life once. For the rest of your life, you’ll have to make your own luck. You were put here for a reason. Don’t blow it.”
Growing up I didn’t feel lucky. One year, my mom called my brother and me into the kitchen and said, “There’s no easy way to put this. There’s not gonna be a Christmas this year. We can’t afford it." 8-year-old me was gutted. Christmas was never a windfall of gifts and cheer at our house, but there was always a little something, a stocking stuffer and a filling meal, breaking up the monotony of what felt like a string of endless meager days.
Our dad had left four years earlier. I could still picture the white Pontiac pulling out of the driveway. My brother, two years older than me, and with a better grasp of what was happening, was an inconsolable mess of screams and sobs, trying to run after the retreating car. Ever since then my mother had been the sole breadwinner of the family. My brother and I knew things were bad. It meant utilities being routinely shut off. It meant pulling up the carpet in our house when it got hot, and we couldn’t afford to run the air conditioning. It meant excessive abuse.
The night we were told there wouldn’t be a Christmas, I could hear my brother softly sniffling in bed. I covered my head with a sheet, feeling my own tears rolling down my cheeks.
On Christmas Eve, something happened that changed my whole view of humanity. My mother was driving my brother and me home, parking in front of the garage. Taped to our garage door was an envelope. My mother took the envelope down and opened it. Inside was a blue card with a dove on the front and the word “LOVE.” Nestled in the card was a $20 bill. It was completely anonymous, there was no sign of who or where it had come from. To this day I don’t know the identity of the good Samaritan. Someone had seen us struggling and, needing no gratitude or recognition, gave us enough money for our mom to scrape together a last-minute Christmas—which she did.
That act of kindness was my first understanding of how much people care for one another and want to help others. From the moment I saw that green bill and realized what it meant for our little family that year, I was committed to providing the same generosity to others that I was shown that night. I’ve kept good on that commitment. It’s not always easy. I wanted to help people by protecting them. I found I could do this by delivering families a house and home of their own.
I uphold those same pillars of goodwill and protection for everyone I work for, like the little dove on our garage door that dared to love.