I recently ran into a man at one of my favorite and routine business places, where I patronize almost daily, to get some of their delicious coffee.
During our very brief conversation, a thought came into my mind that was the inspiration for my article today.
This man, who is perhaps about eight years younger than me, was reared in a good home. His father served as a principal at one of the schools in our area when I was growing up and his mother served as an elementary teacher.
The thought continued to develop in my mind when we parted and went our separate ways, as to why this African American man, who was raised in a good family with parents who were successful professionally, had not achieved more in life than he had?
I am not criticizing nor demeaning his mediocre life and achievements.
Not everyone can soar like an eagle and achieve great and outstanding things in life. The majority of us (myself included) are ordinary people with ordinary abilities and talents. We are not in the league of an Alan Schafer business-wise, nor a Professor Kenneth R. Manning academically, and certainly not a Ben Bernanke, who from all indications was a child prodigy, who taught himself as a young adolescent, the basics of calculus. Then there is my favorite James E. Lockemy, who is the most multifaceted and accomplished professional that our county ever produced.
Though each of these high achievers are truly exceptional and ahead of the curve, there are some disciplines that propelled them to great heights of accomplishments that each of us can incorporate in our lives that will boost us into the orbit of success.
Both biblical and secular history are replete with people who should have been…but never were.
In the biblical narrative, men like Cain, Lot, Saul, Ahab, Gehazi, and of course, Judas Iscariot were people who should have been…but never were. Each of them were given positions and opportunities to be great men. In American history, men like Benedict Arnold, Aaron Burr, Andrew Johnson (17th President), and Richard M. Nixon (37th President) fall into the category of people, who by all accounts due to their opportunities and station in life, should have been remembered as great American politicians and statesmen that history classifies as failures.
On a more contemporary and local level, there are people I know personally who either blundered or squandered golden opportunities to be very successful and accomplish some outstanding things.
With their names being fictionalized, here are a few of the “should have been…but never were” people who lived right amongst us.
The Man Who Despised His Upbringing
Many of us, who study and search the Scriptures, know about the history of Esau and Jacob, the fraternal twin sons of the patriarch Isaac, who was the son of Abraham and Sarah. Esau, being the firstborn of the two, according to the traditions and customs of the Jewish people who were given them by God, was to be bequeathed the lion’s share (two-thirds) of his father’s possessions, as well as the headship of the clan once his father passed.
However, in spite of all of these things that were promised to him (due to him being the firstborn son), he despised his birthright and sold it to his deceptive, scheming brother for one morsel of goat stew fixed up to taste like venison.
I am well familiar with an Esau-type fellow who I grew up with.
He was a classic “should have been…but never was”. Calvin Tims (not his real name) was a person who was reared in a good Christian family. His parents, especially his stepfather who came into his life when he was no older than two years of age, was a strict disciplinarian who believed strongly in God and education. He wanted his children to be good, moral, and upright people when they grew up.
Furthermore, he knew the importance of making good grades and attending college, so he encouraged (or even at times enforced) good study habits and doing homework. Because of this, Calvin, his oldest sister, and perhaps one or two more of his siblings’ GPAs were at the top percentage of their classes.
Being in the same class with Calvin, I am well aware that he was the top student with the highest GPA in our class. He was slated to be the valedictorian until the bottom fell out due to his own doing.
In our senior year (1970), Calvin became disrespectful and defiant to the rules of his stepfather and he began to drink beer and wine, as well as smoke cigarettes.
Due to hanging out with the wrong people, he drifted further and further away from the perimeter and safety of his upbringing that had predisposed and pointed him in the direction of being a tremendous success in perhaps any profession of his choosing.
Calvin ended up going to jail at the end of our senior year in high school for stealing and cashing checks that were not his.
Consequently, he was disqualified from being the valedictorian of our class, although he had the highest GPA. He never went to college and did a few years in the military. He pillared around from job to job and as a truck driver for a few years.
My classmate, who should have been a very accomplished man, due to the advantages and opportunities that were afforded to him by his upbringing, as well as his divinely endowed intelligence, was also a classic “should have been…but never was.”
From all indications, he died a few years ago broke, busted, and disgusted.
Two Siblings Who Squandered Their Advantages and Opportunities
In my final example of people who should have been…but never were, I am going to feature and fictionalize a true story of a brother and sister who were raised in Newtown in a family that afforded them many advantages and opportunities. Douglas and Phyllis Anderson (not their real names) were born and reared in what had to be one of the most prominent and prosperous families in Newtown, especially by African American standards. I literally envied Douglas when we were growing up because his father lavished him and his sister, who were his only children, with almost everything they desired that he could afford. Being a man who made quite a lot of money back then as a plasterer and cement finisher, Mr. Anderson was in a good position to buy them the best of clothes, the best of toys during Christmas time, and many other luxuries of life that most families in Newtown could not afford. I want to believe that the hope and desire of both Douglas and Phyllis’ parents were for them to do well in life. They wanted Phyllis to go to college and Douglas, if not college, to continue in the steps of his hardworking father and take it to another level. Regrettably, what Mr. and Mrs. Anderson worked and planned so earnestly for their children never happened, due to their children’s ingratitude and refusal to capitalized on the advantages and opportunities that their privileged upbringing had afforded them. Ultimately, both Douglas and Phyllis’ lives plummeted to rock-bottom level and they respectively got addicted to alcohol (Phyllis) and crack cocaine (Douglas). Though Phyllis managed to obtain her dignity and freedom from alcoholism before she died, somewhat of a premature death, her brother regrettably died not long after her passing (according to my recollection) without ever getting his freedom from the shackles of drug addiction.
It has given me no joy or satisfaction to allude to these people who I grew up with even in a fictional way to illustrate the point that I am attempting to make about people who should have been…but never were. However, they are examples of far too many people who have been given advantages and opportunities in life who fail to appreciate and capitalized on them. Hopefully, you are not in this category of ingrates and losers due to their own blundering and squandering of advantages and opportunities. All of us will do well to remember that we can easily become people who should have been…but never were, if we forget that to whom much is given, much shall also be required (Luke 12:48).