A Getting Ahead commencement address

In the book Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World, the author, Philip E. DeVol, stated a quote that caught my eye. He stated it like this: “Just as who we are today was decided by what we did yesterday, who we’ll be tomorrow is decided by what we do today.”

Today is my day—my day to reflect on the things that I have learned and the things I can use, and the stuff I am going to prepare for future generations!

I do not want to lack anything, but before these classes happened, I did.

Have you ever lacked anything in your life?

To lack means to be inadequate, not available when in need; not sufficient or usable for a purpose.

I began to ponder these words too when I started classes for Getting Ahead: poverty, broke, useless, poor.

These words all mean the same thing to me, and they may as well be a motto when you live them: lacking sufficient money to live at a standard considered “normal” in society; a low or even inferior status.

Look at where you are right now; look at the people around you. Where do you wish you could be? What do you wish you could be doing?

Don’t be a missed opportunity!

I learned at an early age, living in the country in a two-bedroom shack with a dirt floor, no running water to bathe, and having to take well-water sponge baths and running to the outhouse to relieve myself that I was blessed, not poor.

I had a mindset to look at life and let the world understand how I live: not beyond my means, but valuing what it is in life that matters most to me.

These things are exactly what helped me in this class want to use my pulse of life for a purpose to help others to get through poverty.

We must FOCUS: Follow One Course Until Success—one day and one opportunity at a time.

We must put effort into what we value most by learning how to not be afraid of things in life that threaten us!

Finances were a huge fear of mine; a bill was a threat, just knowing the mailbox was stuffed with them before I started this class! (Ask my husband, Jacob; I worried to the point of a panic attack and allowed the anxiety to mess around in my head.) Every month another bill would pile up on the ones we already had, and I found myself in debt.

I realized an inner change must occur for an outer effect to take effect.

If I didn’t find a purpose for myself, I would not make an effort to change my situation. Before these classes and the wisdom I learned from my peers and dignitaries here tonight before me, I was living beyond my means. I had wants, and they were not like most people, those who want a flashy new car or a brand new flatscreen television. They were more geared toward needs that every day brought me a new idea and a fresh start.

I just wanted my bills paid. I just wanted my fridge full of food. I just wanted to make it, to have a way to get by.

I got so focused on the problem that I couldn’t find or even see the solution staring me back in the face!

I am the solution to my poverty! I am the reason I was such a financial mess!

How I thought was determining how I lived. A wise woman, Sister and Pastor Linda Edwards, said it like this: “Your words are your destiny.”

How great a truth!

And my facilitator, Miss Carolyn Lewis, taught me this: “Do not give more than you are willing to lose.”

I was tired of being comfortable, and I wanted, as well as needed, change.

I realized there was a better me, and these classes helped me to define that.

I learned many skills to ensure a healthy habit for my new habitat. I no longer want to live beyond my means; I want to find a meaning for living!

I had to accept the problem, assess the situation, and acknowledge the solution.

I chose not to determine my problems by how I feel, but by facts. The fact is I can’t have a new car unless I want the payments. The fact is I can’t get a flatscreen television if my 19-inch box tube works fine. The fact is I have all I need!

Proverbs 15:22 says: “Without counsel, plans fail; but with many advisers, they succeed.”

That was my answer; I needed peers and support and counsel from wise people like everyone here tonight!

I needed help, and this class gave me confidence to press on. I am now excited to be here. I have a pulse and a purpose now! The purpose of my attending these classes was to teach me that I need discipline. Discipline is more about learning to change rather than inheriting the punishment of lack of knowledge.

I did pretty good. I got by, but I was not getting ahead of the mess!

My bills piled up, my anxiety hit the roof, and my panic attacks were frequent prior to the knowledge I learned here.

I now got a roof over my head, clothes on my back, shoes on my feet, food in my fridge, and I am content. I am no longer comfortable with where I was; I am content with where I am going.

I am not materialistic. I get rips in my jeans and holes in my shirts. I still have to pay bills and wake up and work.

What really unnerves me is to not know life is worth living if we put effort into it!

I am so blessed that I can be inspired to teach others what I have learned and to put into practice the reason I am ahead of where I was once: just getting by!

Here are just a few ideas that are now a part of my financial life. Not only are they words of wisdom from everyone I was in class with, but they have made me get ahead so I am no longer just getting by. They all came from class, and I hope they will in some way help you too!

1) Self-assessment. What are your resources? Where are you spending your money? Where is it really going? I am frugal and have started to save receipts from everything I purchase. Just ask my husband, Jacob. If he doesn’t come home with a receipt, I make him go back and get one!

2) Community contributions. How can you give back? What ways can you volunteer? I know we have a food pantry and several church organizations. I also know we can do a random act of kindness for others: send cards to your sick neighbors or send a letter of encouragement to your local nursing homes or nursing homes in other places!

3) Be someone for that one. Build resources, and get to know yourself and others by reaching out to them. Be a hand up, not just a handout! Find things you have in common, or see the needs. Someone needs grass mowed or a bottle of water on a hot day? Someone needs snow shoveled in a cold, snowy winter? Be that one for someone!

4) DO SOMETHING HELPFUL! Say something meaningful. You have a purpose, and what you do or say matters.

5) Research. Look around you and your community, fill in the gaps, and show others their role in life is to build a bridge of community. Fill in the gaps to show them their life is more than poverty. Make a choice, make a change, break away from the normal status quo and dive in head-first! Try new opportunities; fear is only failure not explored.

6) Let us all get ahead by learning simple truths. We are not poor. We are pouring out our knowledge for future generations. Let your conduct accept this fact. If someone else doesn’t want to clean up and change their lifestyle or situations around them, you must realize you are not responsible for their actions—and you won’t be held accountable for their consequences! We are not the reason for someone else’s happiness or choices; we are the solution to our own problems. Look for the truth because everyone you meet has something to offer. Everyone has a solution!

7) Be a problem solver! Be accountable because poverty is more than personal choices; there are causes and effects that affect everyone.

I have learned a lot in such a little time. It is so hard to believe that these classes are over, but the knowledge and wisdom lasts a lifetime!

King David said it best when he wrote Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, and I shall not want.”

I feel our wants and desires must be led by a passion to move forward, and who knows?

We will see a better life in discipline.

I look at it like this: Deuteronomy 2:7 says, “For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the works of your hands; he knows you’re going through this great wilderness; these 40 years the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing!”

In closing, I thank you all for the time, effort, opportunity, and sacrifices you make on a daily basis.

Many blessings to you on your program for the future. I thank God and everyone here who has given me a brighter hope for a better future. I am now getting ahead. Thank you!