I had an opportunity this week to speak to the students at PPEP. Dr. John Arnold started PPEP when he was a young Baptist Pastor. His church began ministering to migrant workers bringing a school bus called La Tortuga to the fields to educate the children and adults. In 45 years the program has grown to include a high school, virtual on line education, adult education and micro business lending to help bring opportunity to the poor.
I knew the kids would have difficulty relating to me and their body language as I began showed me they were ready to tune out. After all what does a white guy in a suit know about being the son or daughter of poor immigrants? I talked about our radio stations and what we do and then I ventured into sensitive territory. I told them that I grew up poor and was ridiculed by the rich kids. My patched up thrift store clothes, taped up glasses and homemade haircut was something to laugh about. Today it would be popular, but back then I stood out like a sore thumb. So I detested those kids and grew to be a bitter young man with a chip on my shoulder.
When I got hired as a radio sales guy I felt elated when I “beat” the “rich” guys by selling them. I had become a Christian during this time and God convicted me and showed me that my attitude was one of covetousness (jealousy and greed) and that my bitter heart needed to be mended. I shared with the young people that God wants us to see all people the same whether they are rich or poor or no matter what their racial or social background is and to love them. I began to see my clients this way and to love them. They would share with me their problems and I realized that their problems were bigger than mine. Through this God also blessed me and I succeeded in sales and went on to manage the radio station. I could see in their eyes that they knew what I was talking about.
We can either let our life experiences make us bitter or better. There are some adults who because of their experiences make a bitter pill and they poison the next generation. There are others that choose to be overcomers and help the next generation succeed. There are thousands of young people in our community that are growing up in difficult circumstances. They will need mentors who will not poison them, but instead help them succeed. We need more overcomers.