Dear Mom and Dad,
All my life, hope has driven me, hope has saved me, and hope has led to me where I am in my life today.
However, my story starts before I was even born – it begins at a time where there didn’t seem like there would be a whole lot of hope. In 1991, a fifteen-year-old high school student, who worked at a Burger King in Houston, Texas, found herself pregnant. The father was older and involved with gangs and drugs. Money was tight, as this teenager couldn’t afford basic needs for herself, let alone a child.
After three months of trying to raise her baby, she made a courageous decision to give her baby up for adoption. That baby was me.
When both of you came to meet me, I was about seven months old and in foster care in a rough area in Houston. You drove hours from Plano, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. As soon as I saw you, I crawled up to you and put my arms in the air as though I wanted you to pick me up. That is the moment you two knew that I was your son, and you decided to adopt me.
This was the moment I began to find hope.
From the very beginning, you put my well-being first. You were extremely attentive and proactive parents, giving me the hope that I could accomplish anything in life.
Mom, research told you that children separated from their birth mothers at an early age often become social introverts. So, every single day you sat me on your lap and read to me for hours and hours. By the time I was a toddler, I talked non-stop and made friends with everyone.
When I was a kid, I had an idea book where I wrote down inventions and experiments that interested me. One day, I devised a plan to build a hovercraft. I shared it with kids at school, and they made fun of me. When I told you, Dad, about my idea, you said, “show me.”
Together, we spent hours building this makeshift hovercraft in the garage, using a leaf blower and some parts we found on google. Although it didn’t get very high off the ground, we both felt so much pride when our family took it for a spin around the garage for its maiden voyage.
However, life wasn’t always that simple.
In middle school, I began to realize people looked at me differently – not just because I am your only adopted child, but also because I am mixed race. Kids teased me and strangers stared at me, But you always treated me like I belonged and told me you loved me. Whether it was meeting with other kids’ parents or walking me to the bathroom in a restaurant, you did whatever you could to protect me from the hate that exists in this world.
Mom, Dad, you gave me hope that I could rise above ignorance.
In college, I began to recognize how lucky I was to have so much hope in my life. For undergrad, I went to Sam Houston State, where I majored in pre-law criminal justice. My college was in Huntsville, Texas. There are eight state prisons in Huntsville, including one which possibly housed my birth father. The prisons there interacted with my school’s criminal justice program. We got a frontline view of what happens to young people and violent offenders who end up in jail. Many of the inmates come from areas like the one where I was born. I couldn’t help but think that if you hadn’t adopted me I could have been coming to Huntsville for prison instead of college.
As an adult, I never wanted to take the hope you gave me for granted,
After I graduated from Sam Houston State, I took a commission in the Army Reserve. I went to graduate school at Arizona State University, where I got a master’s degree in construction management. Then, I was fortunate enough to get accepted to both Case Western for an MBA in finance and Harvard Business School for a fellowship in executive education in negotiation mastery and finance.
Now, I own and manage apartments in Cleveland, Ohio. My mission moving forward is to go to underserved neighborhoods – neighborhoods like the one where I was born – and renovate the apartments. I want children who aren’t as lucky as I was as a kid to at least have a home where they can learn and grow and feel secure.
I want to share a small piece of the hope you provided me with these children.
It’s a bit cliche, but I genuinely owe every opportunity I have had in life to you and I am incredibly proud to be your son. No matter what, you have always had my back and my best interest at heart. You instilled in me the strength to never give up in life and I never will because I know I always have hope – I know that I always have you.
Mom, Dad, your love IS my hope.
Thank you for my life. I love you.