American Dream Tears

Our banker rattled off the amount of money she was making our cashier’s check for. “OK, and I’ll use your names and new address for the memo… Right?”

I started crying. “Oh God,” I said, “That’s a lot of money.”

The banker looked at me, “I know, but it’s OK! You are building a future for yourself, you are going to own your home.”

Good Man looked at me, “Why are you crying?”

***

A few years ago, during preplanning, we were doing some sort of rah-rah-teacher team-building activity. Dozens of photos were on the floor, and we had to choose one that represented “teaching.”

I chose a picture of money.

When it came my turn to explain why I chose money, people laughed. Teaching, money?

“Growing up, my family didn’t have much money. I knew my family didn’t have money like my classmates did. But my parents always taught me that education was the way to a better life. I went to college because I knew college could give me opportunities. Teaching has opened up a whole new world to me. I want to work with gifted kids in Title I [disadvantaged] schools because I was that kid. I want to be a role model so students can see how education gives them options.”

The room was silent, and the teachers who had laughed were nodding.

***

When I was growing up, my parents made decisions I didn’t understand. (Shocking, right?) As an adult, I’ve become more aware of why they made decisions they made. And I’ve come to understand that every decision they made was done with us kids in mind. Every major decision I didn’t understand at the time was made to provide more opportunities for us.

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself—Well…How did I get here?

Talking Heads

All of the sacrifices my parents made for me sent me down a long and winding road.

I left Minnesota to attend college in Atlanta. A failed engagement in Atlanta sent me to a more exciting life in Korea—a life only made possible by the fact that I had a college education. Bad luck in the form of a Labor Board visit in Korea made my relationship with Good Man possible. And he brought me back to America when he was chasing his own American Dream.

I never made any decisions for my parents. All three of my parents always gave me room to make my own adventures, fix my own mistakes, and build my own independent life.

I have a job I love. I have an amazing marriage with a really good man. And although I never bought the “graduate, get married, buy a house” dream? Here we are, about to buy a home. I have all of these things because of what my parents gave me: hope, confidence, support, and dreams of an education.

Sitting in that chair, I wasn’t crying over money. I was crying in deep, soul-washing gratitude.