Born on third base

Nick Foy, CFP®
nick@greenwaywealth.com

Over the past couple of weeks, there’s been a pretty big shift in the news cycle: constant talk of a global pandemic gave way in a sudden, startling fashion to conversations about race after George Floyd was brutally killed, on video, in broad daylight, by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

Protests and riots have ensued, and a whole new level of anger has been uncovered as people have responded to the broader treatment of black Americans by law enforcement. It’s led to some uncomfortable conversations, and many white Americans have started to discover (or better vocalize their understanding of) the inequities that exist in our society.

By just about any definition, I was born on third base. I was born in early 1980’s America, into a home with two loving parents, into a neighborhood with great schools, and little crime. And I have white skin. I controlled none of this. I’ve never felt scrutinized when I walk into a store. I’ve never had an uncomfortable run-in with the cops. I’ve never been denied a job opportunity because of the amount of melanin in my skin.

As a kid, I’m not sure that I realized the implicit advantages I was afforded thanks to my fortuitous situation, but my Dad would travel all over the world for his job, and he’d always come back home to California and tell us we were so lucky to live where we did. He was right. But not everyone is so lucky, even in America.

We’re working hard to instill grateful attitudes into our kids. Not guilty. Grateful. They’re lucky to have been born into our household, and with that reality comes a great responsibility. It means we should work to help those in need. The oppressed. In fact, it’s demanded of us. 

Last weekend, we took our kids to a rally in uptown Charlotte. It was put on by a few churches, and there were probably 3,000 people; lots of different skin tones too. It’s good to see that people are making a public effort to be known as healers.

I love when people from different backgrounds with unique experiences get together. I’m on a WhatsApp chat with some guys on my water polo team. It’s the craziest mix of people you’ll ever see: A Greek, two Egyptians, a Brazilian, an Italian, a Mexican, and a few Americans all jabbering together. And everyone lives in a mid-sized city in the American south. This isn’t New York, or London. I think it’s remarkable. It gives me hope for humanity. Sometimes the Egyptians write in Arabic, and I have no clue what they’re saying. 

One thing I’ve found, after having some hard conversations with family and friends, is that most people really want to help make things better for everyone. Another thing I’ve found is that most people really don’t know how. Instagram hashtags are a decent start, but it’ll take more than that. Rallies are good, but it’ll take more than that too.

It seems like, for the first time, more white people are catching on to this reality. When I see photos from protests in the 1960’s, there are a few token white guys, but mostly it’s black people marching together without much support from anyone else. More recently, the protests have had all sorts of different people all fighting for the same thing. It’s taken a while, but we’re finally figuring out that it’s better to support people in need. After all, the world is a more beautiful and interesting place when everyone is given the chance to prosper.

I’m not convinced, though, that every person knows where to plug in and help. We want to make an impact, we just might not know how.

Over the past few years, I’ve gotten to know some people and organizations that are doing impressive work to help people in need; mostly people of color. I thought I’d highlight some of their efforts to give some ideas for places you might want to support, either with your time, your money, or both.

UrbanPromise

My friend Matt is an attorney at a fancy firm in Charlotte. He’s from northern Kentucky originally, and he moved to North Carolina to play soccer in college. Matt is one of the most positive people I know. One thing I love about Matt is that he loves to eat. Someday you should ask him about his typical order at McDonald’s.

Matt serves on the board of directors for UrbanPromise, and he’s really passionate about their work. UrbanPromise serves kids through summer camp and after-school programs, and hires high school students to mentor and tutor the younger kids. The mentors are called StreetLeaders. 

Over the last five years, 100% of the 68 senior StreetLeaders have graduated high school on time and have been accepted into college. Almost all are first-generation college students. Most of them come from historically disadvantaged communities.

Matt feels a deep obligation to support kids who aren’t as fortunate as he was growing up, and he feels a burden to make a difference in the lives of kids who need people to show them they’re important. He plugged into an organization already at work, and he’s inviting other people to learn more about the mission and vision of UrbanPromise.

Project One Scholarship Fund

My friend Neal left a career in finance to start Project One in 2009. Neal was raised by a single mom in Texas, and she couldn’t afford to send him to college (even though he qualified). 

A friend’s grandfather volunteered to pay for him to go to school at Baylor University. Later in life, he felt a deep desire to help pay for other kids to go to school, and Project One was born.

Project One offers scholarships to students who are Mecklenburg County residents planning to attend a North Carolina public college/university and have a high school GPA of 3.0 or higher. Recipients must demonstrate initiative and come from a family with a household income at or below 200 percent of poverty rate. Project One also pairs students with a mentor through college and requires that students maintain at least a 3.0 GPA in college to keep their scholarship.

When he started Project One, I’m not sure he knew where it would lead, but look at the faces of the kids who have received scholarships from Project One. They’re going to change the world. Check out this story about one student who received a scholarship to help pay for college.

Neal felt a burden to start Project One because someone was generous to him. At this point, he’s done much more than ever would’ve been expected to re-pay his debt of gratitude.

Charlotte Rescue Mission

My friend Bill is in his mid-seventies. He grew up in Charlotte, and he’s lived here most of his life; his accent gives him away as a true son of the south. Bill says that no man should wear denim after age 40. I’m 38, and I think I’ll still be wearing denim in two years.

Bill mentors just about every guy I know, in one way or another. He’s passionate about pouring into the next generation of men. He’s kind, encouraging, and always has an ear to listen.

A few years ago, Bill started attending F3 workouts at the Charlotte Rescue Mission on Saturday mornings. The Rescue Mission’s Rebound Program provides drug and recovery services for men who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford them. During the workouts, Bill got to know some residents at the Rescue Mission, and he developed a heart for them.

Bill says that the only differences between him and the guys at the mission are the color of his skin and that he was made to believe that he mattered when he was a kid. When you’re told that you matter to other people, I think you begin to matter to yourself too. Bill looks forward to getting to know the men who grow up in a very different Charlotte from his, and I think they look forward to spending time with him too.

He’s working with some other guys on a plan to help Rebound graduates find affordable housing, help them find jobs, and connect them with a social fabric that has, until now, remained mostly elusive for people of color in Charlotte. He’s got a big vision, and I’m confident he’ll make it happen.

Brookstone School

One of my wife’s former colleagues introduced us to Brookstone Schools a number of years back, and we decided we wanted to get plugged in. Brookstone was started in 1996 and currently has 197 students in grades K-8.

Brookstone offers a high-quality education to kids who might not have the opportunity to attend a great school in their neighborhood. Currently, 80% of Brookstone’s students are black, and most of the rest are Asian and Hispanic. 

Brookstone has a $3.3 million budget, and it costs roughly $10,000 per student per year, but families are only required to pay a small portion of the tuition. The rest is donated by churches, foundations, organizations, and individuals.

I serve as a lunch buddy for a rising fourth grader. That means I get to go have lunch once or twice a month with a Brookstone student. I’ve been doing it since he was in kindergarten. It’s fun to watch him grow, and hear about what goes on in his life.

It’s an easy task, and I’m convinced that most of the kids at Brookstone need what every kid deserves: consistency, love, and to know that they’re important.

As a bonus, Brookstone is a great school. The DIBELS reading assessment showed 91% of third graders achieved reading proficiency by year end. Upper elementary reading outcomes were equally good: fourth grade at 90% and fifth grade achieved 100% proficiency. It’s impressive how well these kids do in school; all they need is the opportunity to succeed.

Where to go from here

If you’re like me, and you were born on third base, you’ve got an obligation to do something to help people who might not have been. I’m pretty sure that most of the racial strife we’re seeing today exists because good people weren’t doing much to help protect people from oppression, and it created a giant vacuum of despair that sucked up a lot of people into it. Too much despair can be upsetting.

The best part is that none of what I listed above requires much creativity, nor does it require government intervention; these organizations (and countless others) are already doing great work. Great stories are being written because kind people are willing to support those in need, even if they don’t look the same. If everyone born on third base helped those who weren’t, I bet we could create lasting change, and could help people achieve things they never thought possible.

If you’d like to learn more about the history of race in our country, check out Brownicity. My friend Nate and his wife Lucretia started Brownicity as a way to educate and empower people to have conversations about race. They’re running a virtual 5-week course starting on Tuesday, June 16. You can sign up on their website.

If you know of other organizations who are doing great things to bridge the racial divide, please let me know in the comments below.

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