This essay is about the most important thing that I want to do in my entire life. Talk about being driven. However, before I explain this phenomenon, there are three things you need to know about me.
My father got a promotion at the company he worked, which necessitated moving from Pennsauken, NJ to Pittsburgh, PA. Therefore, my family moved from a middle-class community and school system to a suburban area of Pittsburgh just before I entered 6th grade. I was an above average student and liked school.
When my father looked for a home in Pittsburgh, he asked a realtor which community had the best schools. He wasn’t able to go to college due to WWII and wanted his three sons to go to college. The realtor’s answer was Mt. Lebanon, which was a suburban town just south of Pittsburgh. Therefore, we moved to Mt. Lebanon, which was not only the best school system in the area, it was the 19th best in the entire country. It also was the richest community in Western Pennsylvania.
I learned two things while I went to school in Mt. Lebanon. I was both dumb and poor. In retrospect, I made a mistake. My being average in Mt. Lebanon meant that I was above average when compared to the rest of our country. However, it took me half my life to realize that I had miscalculated my intellectual ability, along with my family’s monetary ranking.
Once I learned that I wasn’t dumb, it changed me. I’ve taught at the college level for over two decades and will continue to do so. I don’t want any of my students to make a similar mistake as I did.
The second experience that changed me was that I have danced with death twice. While I wouldn’t wish to relive either experience, I would not delete either my traumatic brain injury or metastatic prostate cancer from my dance card. Those two successful dances caused me to come alive. However, I know that my clock is ticking and don’t wish to waste any of the time that I still have as I journey down my yellow brick road of life. Doing those two dances added much to my being driven. I am both healthy and determined to live life to the fullest due to dancing with death.
The third experience was discovering my family in Myanmar (Burma). My tour guide, which I had in the area of Inle Lake, needed to stop and pick up some papers about where I would be going after leaving that area. What a fortuitous event. My guide said that while she got the paperwork, I could meet her 9-year-old daughter who was at their home on winter break. We walked into her living room, and I was greeted by her daughter standing there. “Hi! My name is Ti Ti. Do you want to play some games?”
Ti Ti and I played Scrabble for less than an hour, but I realized that I had met my granddaughter. Ti Ti was the bridge that bound my family with hers. I met her two younger sisters and her father on that first trip. Four years later, I returned to Myanmar to visit my family again. I can’t express how much I love them and how much they love me.
However, before returning home from my second trip, I gave Ti Ti my laptop. I only used it to store photos and videos of my trip. I downloaded the files to an external hard drive and gave Ti Ti her laptop.
This is where my three life-changing experiences morphed together. While Ti Ti and her family are a part of my family, the students who attend school with my three granddaughters are my extended family. My two youngest granddaughters attend an elementary school and Ti Ti a high school. The combined student body is 1250 students. Less than 10% of them have used a computer. Therefore, I need to raise $400,000 for laptops for elementary and high school. In addition, I need $100,000 to improve the Internet reception at the two schools and related fees. Essentially, I need to raise a half million dollars before mid-December of 2019.
Myanmar is an emerging country eager to join the family of nations as a developed country. The most important vehicle to assist them to become a developed nation is to help fully educate this generation of students. Laptops can assist their teachers in enabling them to actualize their potential. Fully educating this generation will allow them to create good paying jobs and improve their national economy.
Because of my two dances with death, I learned that my clock is ticking. I am 76-years old and need to fully utilize my time remaining. I was quite fortunate to be able to lead death on the dancefloor of my life. As a result, I am sensitized to both the brevity of my remaining time and want to leave a mark upon 1250 students educationally. This is my moment in time, and I don’t want to waste it.
I am driven, and I thought that I was driven during the civil rights movement when I was in college and graduate school. It pales in comparison with today. I know that my time is limited. I won’t allow a moment to be wasted when so many are struggling to survive in this world, especially in developing countries.
I need to raise $500,000 before mid-December. Bobby Kennedy who was my mentor said, “Some men see things as they are and say, why; I dream things that never were and say, why not.” I get that I am a dreamer. However, this is where you can help 1250 students in Taunggyi, Myanmar to actualize their full potential. The following are three requests that I am asking you to consider, and I hope that you address all three.
1. I am asking you to contribute to my dream of raising $500,000.
2. My next request is for you to send this link to your friends and ask them to send it to their friends…ad infinitum.
3. My final request is to return with me to Myanmar during winter break in 2019…less than a year from now. You will see where your money is being sent. Additionally, you might discover a part of your family living in Myanmar. My discovery changed my life. It was my one moment in time, and it can be yours also.