Wednesday, April 04, 2007

All Roads Lead Home

Back when polaroid pictures were king, my family would pile in the car and hit the road. My sisters would be sleep before we left D.C., but I would sit staring wide-eyed in utter fascination at the world beyond our Nation's Capitol. I would count out toll money or mentally map our route while bobbing my head to Pop's "don't leave home without 'em" collection of 8-track tapes. Junior Walker's "Shotgun" blared from the moment the pedal hit the metal. Gladys Knight & The Pips fueled the middle stretch. It was left up to Sam Cooke's "Live at the Copa" to close the show. I'm talking complete and total sensory overload and I loved every single musical mile!

Perhaps our family road trips are the reason why I, along with my brother Taz, view our lives as one big, exciting road trip. Earlier this week, our road trip came upon the strangest of places. This town should have been called Wishful Thinking, nestled deep in the heart of Not In Your Wildest Dreams. But, make no mistake - we somehow had made it here, and were about to navigate the intersection of "You'll Never Guess What Happened Today" and "Oh, My God!" Rather than ease into the intersection, Taz -- in true Taz-like fashion -- sped thru the intersection while spewing the good news from his lips...

"They promoted me to Senior Vice President!"

Oh my God! My brother, the Tasmanian Devil himself, has been promoted to Sr. Vice President at a Fortune 500 company! The conversation that followed blurred like fall foliage when speeding along at 110 m.p.h. (yes, we do know what that looks like). But, my mind was slowly trying to process... how did we get here?

Briefly, ours is a relationship forged in the simplest of gestures. One of my earliest recollections is of him walking up to me, throwing his arm around me while saying, "Hey phathead... you want some ice cream?" And with that, I let loose one of those wide "Howdy Doody" smiles because... I had a big brother! He was my first football coach. His reputation alone made me bully-proof (you really didn't want to mess with Gangsta Shorty). He would laugh hysterically while I practiced my rap on his girlfriends. I can still recite Phillipe Wynne's rap from "Love Don't Love Nobody" so convincingly that you'd think it was my own. While I would soon grow taller than my brother, I would never outgrow him. How could I? He is, and always will be, my big brother.

But what road does a little inner-city kid from Washington, DC take to ascend to Senior VP?

The map-maker in me would tell you to head south with the Washington Monument shrinking in your rear view mirror. You'll pass Civil War battlefields and acres of corn fields. Keep driving until the asphalt runs out and gravel pummels your car's chassis. The world you knew is but a cloud of dust in your mirror. Unfolding before you is the lush utopia and safe haven we call "Grandma Charlotte's House." I don't know if it was when he demolished Granny's mailbox while attempting to drive a stick shift or when he put on his Sunday's best clothing to walk back to D.C. Either way, we should've known then... that boy's going somewhere!

Make sure you drive back to D.C., and circle past Shaw Jr. High School, an inner city school manned then by the late Dr. Percy Ellis, band director Lloyd Hoover and an army of teachers/administrators who genuinely loved teaching and profoundly impacted the lives of every single student to walk thru those doors.

Now, head north to the City of Bethesda, Maryland. There you'll find Georgetown Preparatory School. Truthfully, the school and its academic counterparts could have been the model for the present day SURVIVOR television series. You see, despite all of the atrocities endured by the civil rights marchers, one of their few assets was their strength in numbers. But, for civil rights babies, there would be no such luxury. They were the one's who integrated the Georgetown Preps, the Muhlenberg Colleges and American Universities in the same manner Noah populated the ark - two {max} at a time please! They would endure cultural shock, isolation and the pressure of assimilation, yet still manage to keep their afro's looking tight most of the time.

Now hop in the car and fly by the U.S. Air Force Recruitment office and join up. Twenty years of service will ensure that you are well indoctrinated on the importance of loyalty, teamwork and the 11th Commandment of "no man left behind." Both terms are as valued in the office as they are on the battlefield. And while you're at it, go to night school for what may seem like an eternity. But you'll emerge - Master's degree in hand and ready to tackle the world!

Make a right turn on Corporate America Blvd. For all of the guru books on Business, that Taz is fanatical about simplicity. His strategy? Establish a plan of action and then... everybody row like hell! If you know him, then you know this about him. Plan, then get to rowing! In fact, his dedication to goal-setting was the topic that launched this blog (Little Goals).

With my thoughts and facts in place, I think I have the major components for mapping Taz's success. I know my mental map is lacking - marriage, children, family and friends, etc. Surely there's enough information to get one from Point A to Point S.V.P., ... right?

Just as I opened my mouth to render my expert opinion, my brother said to me in a voice that cracked with humility...

"Brother, it takes the Man upstairs to make this happen.
You don't get here without HIM."

And with that, my map was made whole. God's divine presence has been there every mile along the way. Every wrong turn, He's right there. Every detour, He's right there. Every "Road Under Construction," right there. As my big brother, Taz never told me what was cool, hip or fly just for the sake of being any of those things. He always told me and showed me the truth. And on this day, having navigated life's latest intersection, the simple truth is this...

All Roads Lead Home.

Congratulations Taz... you devil you! I'm so very proud of ya!

And to all of you - whether you're striving for C.E.O. or Chief Cashier, stay encouraged, keep believing, plan your work and get to rowing. Your blessing is coming! Believe that!

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