How to Gracefully Receive a Gift from a Donation Drive

Special shoutout to the single mothers that raise children when the man you had your child with is in jail. Over 70% of children with an incarcerated parent find themselves in prison at least once.

One night about a week before my sixth Christmas, someone knocked at the door.

My mother, who was sitting close by at our kitchen table, opened the door to our apartment. On our doorstep, there was a neatly wrapped green box. The person who planted the box was nowhere in sight.

“What is it?” I recall asking her.

“I don’t know, open it.” She told me skeptically as she handed me the box. She truly was unsure of what it was.

After I untied the ribbon and started to rip open the paper from the tape, I found a small box with an army ranger in a Jeep. It was a toy.

“Where did if come from?”

“Your uncle dropped it off,” she said, before she looked away.

“Why didn’t he come into the house?” I asked, upset that I didn’t get to see my uncle after he allegedly dropped off this gift.

That wasn’t like him.

“He just wanted to drop it off for you.”

My mother, who was 24 years old at the time, probably did not want to admit to her 6-year-old that we were one of those families. You know the type of family that I’m talking about, the ‘type’ of family at the receiving end of a Christmas toy collection drive.

Now, nearly 20 years after I received that gift, I reflect on the life that I live. I am so grateful for the lessons my mother gave me even if she wasn’t necessarily proud of them as she was giving those lessons to me.

She had me when she was 18 years old. She worked three jobs. She went to college part time, dropped out. Transferred. Dropped out again. Moved to Boston to briefly attend the Harvard Extension School. Dropped out. Moved back home. Then moved the two of us in with my grandmother.

I was raised by matriarchs.

Meanwhile, my father wasn’t around. After he had 5 children with 6 different woman over the course of 5 years, he was arrested for drug trafficking and went to jail. His second wife then married his brother, then 10 years later that woman went on to commit suicide.

Some of my earliest memories of reading and writing were the yellow legal pad letters he sent me drawings and spirited messages on. I found them all one day in my mother’s drawer. In the letters, he spoke about how he wanted to get back together with my mother after he got out of prison.

My mother never accepted child support and shielded me from knowing him. The two were never married.

Somehow she put me through private schooling with some help from my grandparents.

When I was 10 years old, she married a man who she thought would be a good father figure to me. He turned out to be an abusive, raging alcoholic with An undiagnosed diabetes. Deadly combination. She divorced him after 10 years of a truly horrible marriage.

Meanwhile, she started a business that she was unable to maintain through the (not so) Great Recession. In her 40s, she went back to school to work in healthcare.

Despite my mother’s ability to make the best out of what could have been a really bad situation, I was really fucking ungrateful.

Not only did I fail to appreciate what she did for me for most of my life, I would do anything to hide who I was.

I was ashamed of my own story.

One time when I was 12, I went over to a childhood friend’s house. His mother asked what my step father did.

“He’s a taxi cab driver.”

“A taxi cab driver. You mean he owns the taxi cab company, right?” She sneered.

“No, he just drives one.” I was so embarrassed. It’s funny what you remember.

I hated when people asked me about my siblings.

To me, I grew up an only child. That was not the case on paper. I had all of those half and step siblings that I never saw and didn’t know and hated explaining.

While my peers enjoyed weekend trips with their father, I remember getting pinned to the ground at 11 years old, held into a pressure point against a wall with his sweat dripping on to me — a common punishment for talking back to my mother.

He once blamed me for being the reason he had holes in his boxers. I couldn’t have been older than 15. We were driving in his work van that smelled like cardboard and chewing tobacco:

“Because of how we live, I have to wear holes with boxers in them. I haven’t gotten a new pair in 10 years.”

(I’m sure it had nothing to do with has alcoholism and propensity to go out to eat 6 times per week).

These are the memories I never wanted to share, the memories that made me ashamed of who I was. I resented who I was. Hated it.

I was so ashamed of myself that I’d lie about the stupidest things. I avoided certain conversations. I didn’t think I was good enough for way too much for far too long.

But then one day it hit me: underdogs are at a serious advantage.

Another epiphany came: by not sharing my story, I’m missing out on being the role model I could’ve used when I was younger.

For a long time, I felt really sorry for myself. Why me? But now I think, why not me?

Out of these epiphanies and many others, I’ve created a list of ten reasons why underdogs are at a serious advantage compared to the people who are expected to succeed.

As 50-cent once said:

“Hate it or love it the underdogs on top…”

Without further ado, The Top 10 Advantages of Being an Underdog:

1. We know what it’s like to have absolutely nothing. The worst that can happen is that we’re left with nothing. While we don’t want that, we know what that feels like. It makes us work harder because having nothing sucks.

2. We relate to more rap music than the rich fuckboys who pretend to relate to rap music. (you’re not fooling anyone, idiot).

3. Instead of thinking about maintaining wealth, we’re more focused on growing wealth. This doesn’t stop no matter what we attain. We’re willing to achieve it all only to start again and achieve more.

4. We generally have more empathy. When I was 14 years old and played Madden, I used to put in the substitutes at the end of the game so they’d get playing time too.

5. People aren’t friends with us because we come from wealthy or influential families, they like us for who we are.

6. We realize that there’s not any such thing as being self-made. It takes a village. No person is an island. For every creative thought, there is an inspiring, underlying thought.

7. We realize the importance of the immaterial over the material.

8. We know how to prove our worth, not just expect it.

9. This one is for the entrepreneurs: Our business is a ship and we will go down fighting for it to stay above the water. We cannot go to mommy and ask for $1m check, or ask daddy to start us another boutique clothing store that nobody goes to.

10. We understand that even the hardest times can be temporary. We’re built on top of decades and perhaps generations of survival.

If that wasn’t enough to inspire you, here is a quick list of famous underdogs:

1) Kanye West, Barrack Obama, and Jay-Z we’re all raised by single mothers.

2) Tobey Macguire came from a family of an incarcerated parent. So did Jackie Chan and Lindsay Lohan.

3) JK Rowling contemplated suicide and was rejected by 12 publishers before publishing the first Harry Potter book.

Do you have an under dog story to tell? If so, leave it in the comments below.

If you’ve found this list or this to be true, please follow me and share this across your channels. Feel free to leave a response in the comments below!

Thank you Gary Vee for the inspiration for this post.

Thank you to my mother for believing in me, my grandmother, and all the other matriarchs out there that raise children in tough circumstances.