Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Black Sheep of the Family (10/03/13)
TITLE: It's Up To You!
By Gail Burks
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I remember attending our first family reunion. I was twelve years old. As one of two girls out of a family of five children, therefore, some would think I had it made. Let me explain.
We arrived at the Blue Lagoon Forest Preserve about 11am that Saturday, because Mom and Dad promised to help prepare the food and decorate. I begged to help with the balloons and put up the signs, but I was told my older brothers and sister would take care of that. My job was to watch my younger brother.
That’s fine, I thought to myself. I loved watching him. He was cool and we had fun together. But, when the other family distant family members arrived, Mom and Dad called my older brothers and sister over to introduce them, and then she told me to bring my little brother over to introduce him. Did my name ever get called? Well, no. I guess in all the excitement, they forgot. Only when one of my cousins came over and said to me. “What’s your name? Whose family do you belong to?” did my name get mentioned.
I know, you think I am exaggerating. Well, let’s go to school.
All of my siblings attended the same elementary and high school. The Carter family was well known in town, because my brothers were star basketball and baseball players. My sister excelled in volleyball, and my younger brother was a champion swimmer.
What sport did I play in high school, you may ask? Well, I played tennis and swam, a little, though never part of a team. Tried out for track, once, but didn’t make it.
Again, in retrospect, I remember when I was about eight, wanting to take dance lessons, but there was never money to go to class...at least never enough money for me to go to class. My sister, however, was able to take ballet and tap; while my brothers took karate lessons. I wasn’t too upset, because I enjoyed watching and encouraging them.
It’s funny, as I look back over my childhood; I realize that my life was really not that bad. Maybe, I should have tried to understand my parents a little more. You know, they both worked full time jobs with the United States Postal Service, and we were never hungry or without clothes.
Nonetheless, I would hear them say, “It’s expensive raising a family in this day and age,” or “We didn’t expect to have five children, things just happened. So, everyone has to pitch in and do their share.”
Ok, so I tried to do my share and get a part-time job as a sophomore in high school, my mom said I was too young. But, when my brothers wanted to work, as sophomores, my parents said ‘yes.
Does that seem strange to you?
Well, through the tears and sadness, I cried out to Jesus at the age of fourteen. He saved me and I was so happy. No matter what, l I knew I could depend on Him to keep me strong. I loved my family and I knew they loved me, but it often hurt to be on the outside looking in.
Now, as an adult mentor to wayward youth, I marvel at God. It’s amazing how things turned around after college, graduating with a degree in business, becoming a Realtor, and starting my own property management company years later, establishing satellite offices in 10 states, with over 300 employees nationwide.
Not bragging, but, I have received awards from the National Association of Women in Business, Property Managers of the Midwest, and the Chamber of Commerce in my city. I volunteer for the Girls Detention center in North Milwaukee, which is one of the most exciting things I do. To empower and motivate these young ladies to choose wisely is my focus. "Either follow the chickens, or soar with the eagles. It’s up to you."
If I had let the notion of “Black Sheep of the Family,” overwhelm me, I wouldn’t be here today. My husband and I are determined to pray for and encourage our two children, and many nieces & nephews we’re blessed to have--- to be strong and use the gifts God has given them.
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