Mr Green's walk to school
The story of Mr Green, a 90-year old retired engineer based in Southern USA, is inspirational.
He was one of 9 children, whose parents evidently valued education. They were able to take advantage (but not without challenges), of the philanthropic work of Russian immigrant Julius Rosenwald. Originally a supplier to the department store Sears, Roebuck, he became an investor, and ultimately the CEO for over two decades.
He set to providing opportunities that were otherwise unavailable to African Americans. With The Rosenwald Fund, 5,000 Rosenwald Schools were built, providing 10 years of education to African American children across the old Confederate South. Mr Green was one such beneficiary. Though the fund ran out in the late 1940s wasn't until the Civil Rights movement of the 60s that the schools closed.
However, having such an opportunity didn't mean that achieving it would be smooth-sailing. As the crow flies, the walk to the school totaled 3 miles in each direction. Unfortunately for the children, the family who owned the farmland between the Greens and the school claimed that the result of walking across the land would allegedly be, "a wash*", and thus, the children were required to walk all the way around the farm. This meant that the journey counted 5 miles in total, or 10 miles a day.
Come rain or shine, the children ventured the distance. You can imagine them running, playing, fighting, laughing and talking. Day in, day out, over the weeks, months and years, they persevered to attain a school education.
Despite Mr Green’s professional achievements, the descendants of that farm that lies between the old Green land and the school remain. How do they describe Mr Green? With unkind words, devoid of any respect. But these have not swayed his character. If anything, this only made him more determined to achieve his potential.
For the real truth, no matter what the neighbours said, is that Mr Green’s family experienced success as a result of staying on course, regardless of the hurdles.
How is this story relevant today? In a recent conversation with an artist friend, I learned that he has been diagnosed with a life-long health condition. I was positively blown away by his response. Rather than be negative, the situation has made him all the more resolved to get out there, show his work and make a statement. He said plain and clear that having this new hurdle was exactly the kick needed to get up and take action. That's an attitude to admire and embrace!
What steps will you take, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, to lead to your intended future? What will you do to face hurdles head on, and to let them hone your focus and resolve to succeed all the more? Rather than curse these situations, rise above them and revel in the resulting experiences and accomplishments.
* By which the farmer meant that the children would make a path that would lead to the topsoil being eroded.
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Photographs © Chris King.
Image above: Susan standing in front of the Rosenwald School (latterly Rosenwald Community Center), Perry County, Arkansas, USA.