(Cover art courtesy of Thomas Nelson)
QUESTION: “Give us a better understanding of what your inner drive is like and how you got to where you are.”
Taken from A Dream Too Big: The Story of An Improvable Journey from Compton to Oxford by Caylin Louis Moore Copyright © 2020 by Caylin Louis Moore Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.ADreamTooBigBook.com.
My mom responded to my father’s terrorism in a similarly unwavering way. She kept moving on. Neither violence nor poverty would quell her desire for a better life for her children. She was determined every day that we focus not on where we were but where we were meant to go. She told us, “We may live in the hood, but that does not mean that the hood has to live in us.”
She taught us both by how she acted and by the words she preached. She reminded me often, “When you give God your absolute best, he will bless it and then give it back to you.” I knew that meant that when you are in agreement with the Lord, the more you put your faith to work in something, the more you confront adversity, the more powerfully God will see you through your storm.
My personal drive was always fueled by hunger. Not for food. There wasn’t enough food to go around and there was nothing I could do about that. But there are other worse hungers. Hunger for love, for safety and security. The worst, though, is to starve for hope. That is the worst kind of hunger. That’s the hunger I could do something about, and it’s the hunger that drives me even now. I feast on hope. It carries me forward. See, any hunger can make you despair, can make you quit. Or it can make you a hunter. I came to realize in the hood that as much as it hurt, I could go without food. But I was damned if I was going without hope. And I mean that literally—without hope, I was doomed. I would always hunt for hope in whatever I did. Like many Christians, my mom saw our situation as an opportunity to rely on God. She never for a minute doubted that God would reward the hunters of hope. That was my drive—the hunger of a hunter for hope. I owed a good part of that to my mom. Not only because she was a shining example of a strong, driven woman but also because at her lowest point, I discovered my own drive and strength.
Things changed again when my mom got sick. By that point, we had gotten into a good routine, but her illness changed that. It started with her having less energy, moving slower, and being distracted. She had always made a point of asking us what homework we had and what was due next. From kindergarten on, she had drilled into us that homework equaled success. The more you brought home and the more you completed, the better you would do. She wanted to know everything that happened at school, what we learned each day. And with Mom, it wasn’t just the “what,” but the “who.”
“Who is Angela Davis?”
“Who is Nat Turner?”
“Who is Harriet Tubman? Medgar Evers? Fred Hampton?”
She painted history for us through all the “who’s.” These figures were object lessons too, people who had fought much greater challenges than we faced. She treated everything as an educational opportunity, even movies. The pause and play button of our antiquated TV remote control was rubbed bare. When we watched movies like The Shawshank Redemption, it wasn’t for enjoyment. She would pause the movie what seemed like every five minutes.
“Did you notice the mind-set that Red has in prison? Has he embraced his oppression?”
“What makes Andy Dufresne so different from everyone else in prison?”
“Is Andy Dufresne actually in prison?”
It inspired me that a man could be in prison in his physical body but at the same time be on the beach in Zihuatanejo in his mind. In his mind he could go places that his body could not. My mom taught me that I could do that same thing.
When my mom watched movies, she kept a notepad on hand. When we watched Lakers basketball games, she kept a homemade statistics sheet to keep up with the game and work on her intellectual sharpness. My mom knew education was the secret. It was the key to every door beyond Compton. The key to the greater world, and big rooms where big people did big things. She didn’t tell us—she taught us when we didn’t know something. She took time to explain to each of us how the world worked.
But all of a sudden, she was quiet. The condition that didn’t yet have a name, or even a place, silenced her. She went to bed early, and didn’t stand up as straight or walk as fast. Her sickness created a hole. She was there, but more and more, she wasn’t.
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