Thanks for Listening: Life Directions
Back in the Day…
Starting in life, I began to formulate how I would impact my world and eventually the world at large. When I was three or four years old, my parents opened a juke joint named “The Dew Drop Inn.” And my aunt and uncle, who doted on me, had a cafe, “Jack’s Chicken Shack.”
Juke Joint Lesson
By getting to hang around and observe the adult customers, I quickly learned from others’ experiences, especially their mistakes. One critical lesson I learned happened when I ran up to the jukebox and pressed several buttons after a drunk patron had put his money in the machine. As a result, he hit my head with a half-pint bottle. After that, I did not report it and never messed with anybody’s money again.
Lesson in Giving
We lived near a large freight yard and would help hobos by giving them water and sometimes food. My big sister, Carolyn, learned a lot from trying to cook poke salad greens for them and for Mr. Lester, an older man who lived next door. His family neglected him to the point where he pulled wood planks from his house and burned it for heat. So a powerful sense for helping others was born.
My aunt thought that she was teaching me to read. She didn’t realize that I was memorizing books, which came to an immediate stop when a teacher switched books on me. I learned to read in a very, very short time, smile.
At the “Colored School,” in Sheffield, AL, Sterling High School, we experienced superb teachers who did not take any of our nonsense by the fifth and sixth grades, which jet-propelled us forward. By this time, I had developed a strategy by reading through my new textbooks right after receiving them. This way, I could keep things in context, plus the teachers began to know that they could count on me to answer questions. Answering questions amounted to me “Brown Nosing” without brown-nosing.
During those days, students with lighter skin or economic status were moved to the front of the class. Despite this colorism, my enthusiasm moved me towards the front of the classrooms. Math and history-related classes were my favorites. I took the college prep route through high school and finished as salutatorian, plus I was student body President.
In June of 1963, my main concern was how to not go to Viet Nam. Several friends and schoolmates had already gotten maimed or killed during the war. Bill Appleton, a man who worked full time for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and full time as a carpenter for my dad’s construction company, advised me to wait until I got to my Texas college, PVAMC to register for the draft. He said that there would be a much larger population of draft-aged Black males, thereby reducing the possibility of being drafted. It worked!
What does all of the above have to do with Direction? First, it shows a pattern of taking both intentional and happenstance ways forward. As we go through life, those who influence us play a huge role in who we turn out to be. My sense of Direction and positive pushes from other caring souls gave me the wherewithal to have a great and progressive life and career.
Whose lives will you enhance?
Thanks for listening!
William Leroy Kennedy
Former Financial Services Professional at Kennedy Group, Ltd. – Financial/Motivation
Studied Architectural Engineering at Prairie View A&M University “Giving a strong recommendation: Khan Academy for educational success”