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From Yesterday to Today: Can You Imagine a Chance for Advancement?

Current Status

My wife and I just had our kitchen and bathroom remodeled. Total tally for the job, somewhere in the neighborhood of seventeen-thousand dollars. No, we didn’t pay cash for it all, but we did exercise some creative financing, thanks to incredibly low interest rates, and since it is something my wife has wanted for as long as I’ve known her and, since she works so damned hard for very little in the way of extravagance, we went ahead and took the financial plunge.

The improvements we made, plus the rising value of real estate in this area, makes our home worth, probably, about $350,000 . . . much, much more than was paid for the home twenty years ago. Needless to say, we are in good shape with equity and future financial stability.

Our physical nest egg for the future

Our physical nest egg for the future

Take a Trip Back in Time With Me

I’ve mentioned, in earlier articles, that I bought my first home when I was twenty-eight years old. I’ve owned twelve homes since then. In many ways I was lucky and privileged. My parents paid for a good education for their only son; we always had food on the table and stability in our living situation; I was white and loved; and there were no major disruptions in my upbringing, nothing like divorce or parents unemployed or even death, not until I was twenty.

I was thinking about that the other day. It occurred to me that not once, while I was growing up, did I lack hope. Not once did I wake up and think “I don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell” of succeeding in life. Not once! And I’m certain that my friends, kids I grew up with, felt the same. We all knew that if we continued with our education, if we worked hard, and if we applied our talents towards a goal, that we would one day build a decent life for ourselves and our families. We did not realistically think we were going to be billionaires, but we did have a realistic goal of a white picket fence and more than a few extras decorating our single-family home once we reached adulthood.

There was never a doubt, in our minds, that it would happen.

$12,000 when my parents bought this house

$12,000 when my parents bought this house

But Wait

I’m not sure when it occurred to me that there are children growing up in the United States who do not harbor such hopes. I suspect it was during six months I spent in rural Louisiana, circa 1970, volunteering, teaching reading to underprivileged children. There I saw what real poverty looks like. There I became aware that what I experienced as a child was a fantasy to many who are born into the lap of gut-wrenching, soul-killing hopelessness.

Prior to that six-month stint in New Iberia Parish, Louisiana, my knowledge of economics was the accumulation of textbooks I had read, theories and statistics and sterilized academia. It may have applied to the life I lived in Tacoma, Washington, but it had very little to do with a child born to a prostitute, wracked with addiction, sharing a mattress with rats.

As a black woman of indeterminate age told me one day, under the shade of a massive willow tree, “That’s just the real of it, college boy! My child, he learn early, ain’t no chance of ad -vance-ment,” and she spit out that last word, then laughed, coughing up phlegm, her eyes dimmed by time and fate.

No chance!

No chance!

Ain’t No Chance

Here’s the thing: As mentioned earlier, I don’t remember seeing any evidence of poverty in our neighborhood when I was growing up, this being the 50’s and 60’s. I’m pretty certain of that fact. We were all, our little circle of humans in the North End of Tacoma, Washington, lower middle class or middle class. Our parents came up through the Great Depression. Most of the fathers fought in World War 2, came home after the war, and found jobs in warehouses or driving trucks or working manual labor jobs in a growing economy.

We had money for necessities. Our parents drilled into our heads the value of hard work, and the American Dream, that if you work hard enough you will always have what you need, and then some, and some day we kids would have our own homes, and families, maybe move out to Suburbia, send our kids to fine schools, and on and on it goes. There was no doubt it would happen. I did not, for one second, harbor any thoughts of poverty while I was growing up. It would not, it could not, happen to me.

But just south of there, the South End of Tacoma, out east of Pacific Avenue, there were pockets of poverty. The homes were run down, yards littered with rusted cars on blocks, skinny dogs roaming in packs, looking for survival, skinny kids roaming in packs, looking for survival, and I guarandamntee it they didn’t have dreams of a better life if they just worked hard, the American Dream a figment of some white man’s imagination, as distant as the jungles of Borneo.

I was blind to it all growing up. I simply did not see it. I simply could not imagine it.

Today, though, I can’t use the ignorance of youth as an excuse. Today I do see it. There are people, in my city and in every city in the United States, who don’t have a chance of making it, and to deny that is to forfeit a portion of our humanity.

I was watching a show on tv the other day, “The Voice,” and one contestant said something that annoyed the hell out of me. He said, and I paraphrase, that “he was raised by parents who taught him that anything he wanted to be, he could be, if he just worked hard enough,” and to me, quite simply, that is a lie, one which is told to millions of children every single year. We cannot all be anything we want to be simply by working hard. Life doesn’t work that way. There are some obstacles which are just too large to overcome. There are some shortcomings which cannot be eliminated simply by putting in more hours, and that’s just the real of it, as that black woman many years ago stated so eloquently.

What’s the Point of This?

I guess, for me, it’s all about awareness, understanding, and a sprinkling of empathy.

I was lucky! There is no other way to say it. I was born into a vat of excrement and came out smelling like roses. My biological family was a mess. They put me in the foster system, a blind kid with very few prospects for success, and nine families passed on me before my adopted mother and father took a chance on me, a chance bankrolled with love, and gave me advantages I am forever grateful for. And those advantages eventually led to my wife and I, in 2021, spending seventeen-thousand dollars on remodeling projects for a home we own.

Can you imagine the absolute perfect confluence of events which have happened, during my lifetime, to lead to this moment? It is mind-boggling and it is humbling.

The blind kid made it, and love led the way!

Can you imagine?

For millions, in today’s world, no, they cannot imagine. They have no frame of reference.

They have no hope!

Thanks for taking a trip back in time with me. It was nice having your company, and I hope you’ll join me on my next journey from Yesterday to Today.

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 12, 2021:

Thank you, Sha! You and I, pretty lucky we were. My life could have turned out so differently if not for a perfect confluence of events.

Have a fabulous week, my friend.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on April 12, 2021:

Bill, I didn't know what poverty was when I was growing up, either. I don't think it ever even dawned on me that there were people who didn't know where their next meal would come from or where they'd lay their heads for the night.

There are so many levels of quality of life in the world. Sometimes we lose sight of that because we live within our circle of friends or business associates and don't venture too far from what's familiar and comfortable.

I agree with you: hard work doesn't necessarily result in being anything you want to be. There's a whole lot more to the equation than that!

Very thought-provoking article, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 11, 2021:

Nah, water under the bridge, Mr. Happy! You can't stop the flow now.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 11, 2021:

Mr. Happy, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Some are very personal, from the heart, and I appreciate that very much. You are "real," and I appreciate that as well. There are no cookie-cutter responses from you, and I appreciate that too.

I appreciate you, bottom line, end of discussion!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 10, 2021:

Gilbert, you summed it up quite well. These are times of pause in reflection. Hopefully that reflection will lead to solutions to some of the problems facing our society today. Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 09, 2021:

Thank you, Rosina! I did not do it by myself. I needed the support of others, the love of others, or I would have floundered terribly.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 09, 2021:

Oh, I love that, MG! What a beautiful saying. Thank you for sharing it.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 09, 2021:

I appreciate it, Ravi! Empathy goes a long way towards understanding, I think.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 09, 2021:

Devika, I will forever be grateful for the parents and upbringing I had.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 09, 2021:

Thank you so much, Gyanendra Mocktan. I am just trying to give back to others, and that's just how I was raised.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 09, 2021:

Thank you, Linda! I am grateful for life's blessings.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 09, 2021:

It really is mindblowing, McKenna, to think that a parent would have to do such a thing. At the very least is should make Americans stop and reflect and be grateful.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 09, 2021:

I'm with you on that, Heidi. A basic finance and economics course should be required in high school; probably more than one. Kids need that before they move into the scary world.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 09, 2021:

Well done, Denise, you and your husband, making that pilgrimage. I think that is valuable to share that with your children.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 09, 2021:

Thank you for sharing that, Linda! Made him weep...indeed it would! It's probably best I was never a missionary. I would be an emotional wreck.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 09, 2021:

Thank you, Peggy! Isn't it amazing, right across a river, so much poverty? It's mind-blowing for me, sometimes, to think there is that kind of disparity only a mile apart.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 09, 2021:

I hope that is so, Dora. I would love to be a best-selling novelist, but if that can't happen, at least I will know that my writings helped some people, and that's saying a lot, isn't it? Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 09, 2021:

Oh, I understand, Mary. We may have to pay on our income taxes this year, the first time that has happened. I'm still in shock and denial. LOL

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 09, 2021:

I love your attitude, Marlene, and I thank you for sharing it with us. There is much to be said for determination and attitude about self. Then there is the fact that we are talking about financial freedoms, and some people are happy even though they are poor, and that's a whole different discussion.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 09, 2021:

Thanks for your thoughts, Brenda! Yes indeed, there are obstacles, for some, which simply cannot be overcome by hard work and determination. I simply cannot imagine what that is like, and I'm grateful that I can't.

Blessings always!

Rosina S Khan on April 08, 2021:

Bill, it is great that you believed in yourself and made into good times in the adult life. Few people are fortunate like you. Like you I have never seen poverty either. Hope you have a good weekend.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on April 08, 2021:

Billy, I read your article with great interest. You have created a wonderful picture of some facets of life. There are inequalities everywhere and they cant be helped. I believe all this is part of the cosmic cycle and the words of Lord Krishna ring in my ears as he wrote in the Gita, " not a leaf moves without my will"

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 08, 2021:

My pleasure, Misbah! Be safe and have a wonderful weekend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 08, 2021:

Flourish, you hit that nail on the head...there but for the grace . . .

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 08, 2021:

Ruby, you really touched upon something I wonder about often: how can a young couple ever afford to purchase a home? It seems impossible to my way of thinking. I'm afraid those days are gone for upcoming generations.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 08, 2021:

And I am thrilled to hear you say that, John! Thank you, sir!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 08, 2021:

Pamela, I wish I had answers to. It seems like someone should. It should be possible to raise the standard of living in this country. It should be possible to conduct the business of this country AND have no child hungry.

Why is that so hard to do?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 08, 2021:

Ann, thank you for your memories and your thoughts. Perhaps it is time for government to be more concerned for those who are struggling and less concerned with the major corporations? I don't think I'll live long enough to see that day, but, like John Lennon said, just "Imagine."

Be well, my friend!


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 08, 2021:

And there you have it, Nell, penniless but content, and that is a marvelous statement about you. Thank you for sharing that.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 08, 2021:

Thank you Manatita! Now it's on to the next project, my friend.

Misbah Sheikh from The World of Rebels. on April 08, 2021:

Thanks a lot for your kind words, Mr. Bill. Yes, it’s me.

Blessings and Peace always

Ravi Rajan from Mumbai on April 08, 2021:

"I guess, for me, it’s all about awareness, understanding, and a sprinkling of empathy."

Bill this one line of yours sums up the vagaries of life so beautifully. I like the way you have learned from every small experience of yours and have shared it with others . Thanks for your wonderful share Bill.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 08, 2021:

Misbah, is that you? I like your new profile picture. It's nice to put a face to the words.

And what lovely words they are. Thank you very much. I try, daily, to live up to that kind of high praise. Sometimes it is a struggle. I am human, first and foremost, and I do stumble often. But just the act of trying means rising above the muck, you know?

Blessings to you always, Misbah! Be safe! Be happy!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on April 08, 2021:

Manatita, thank you my friend. Spin-doctor for sure, she is, a great bobber and weaver. My goodness, my head spins, at times, trying to follow her rapid movements through my life. :)

But here we are, my friend, doing what we can with the gifts we've been given, and ain't life just a marvelous thing to experience?

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 08, 2021:

Bill you make valuable points and so true about life and its experiences. When having such times it is hard to afford what you want and to do for a home.

gyanendra mocktan from Kathmandu,Nepal on April 07, 2021:

Bill, I have no words to describe how kind and empathy you shower to entire fellow being through action and words

Thank you.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on April 07, 2021:

You’ve raised some important points in your article, Bill. Some people have difficult lives. I’m glad you were able to afford the renovations.

Gilbert Arevalo from Hacienda Heights, California on April 07, 2021:

I hope you enjoy the remodeling of your home, Bill. I like that you understand you're a fortunate family man. Disadvantaged people never had the opportunities that helped you succeed. People seem to spread out a different suit of cards. I think it's always been that way before the COVID pandemic. I still believe in working hard and trying to make a better life for myself. I also feel times are so difficult. We can feel guilty trying to over achieve. Disadvantaged minorities find it difficult to even put food on the table. Concerned Americans set a high priority helping those who need help the most. These are times to certainly pause in reflection.

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on April 07, 2021:

Editing issues, haha!! See, it's all Hub-pages' fault. Usually, we get 5 min to edit our comments on articles. When writing-out comments like this though, in the feed, comments cannot be edited. So, don't mind editing issues on my comment. I can't look again, just in case I find more than I already did lol

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on April 07, 2021:

"we did have a realistic goal of a white picket fence and more than a few extras decorating our single-family home once we reached adulthood." - Very interesting! Thanks for sharing this bit. It's like historical data for me. Haha!!

"There I became aware that what I experienced as a child was a fantasy to many who are born into the lap of gut-wrenching, soul-killing hopelessness." - I am not counting how many times You mentioned hope even before this sentence but I find it significant. People relying on hope is a thing. There is also a such a thing as completely losing all hope, yet surviving. Then, one can be free of hope because one sees the possibility of surviving without hope. (That explanation was for non-religious/non-spiritual people because religious/spiritual people have faith. They do not need hope.)

"My child, he learn early, ain’t no chance of ad -vance-ment,” - I like what You did with that "advancement", relating to the actual spoken sounds and how they translate it into writing.

"I was blind to it all growing up. I simply did not see it. I simply could not imagine it." - I think there are people like that nowadays but in respect to racism. It doesn't happen to them. They don't see it happen around them and they think it doesn't exist.

"I was lucky! There is no other way to say it." - Ya. I can say the same thing too. I went through Death's fingers a few times and came-out unscathed. I am not taking it for granted. Alhamdulillah! ("All praises go to God".)

Haha!! I absolutely am one of those people: "They have no hope!"

I go on in spite of anything. It's a Hunt. Whatever Life puts ahead of me, I will overcome, until that last Divine Breath comes to pass. No hope needed. : )

May Wakan Tanka always walk with You!

McKenna Meyers on April 07, 2021:

How can we not realize how fortunate we've been when kids are leaving their parents and their homelands in Central America to come here? What is happening in their countries that's so horrific that moms and dads are sending their precious children away? It goes against every parent's instinct. I hope Americans can have a heart for these youngsters and not listen to media that aims to dehumanize them.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on April 07, 2021:

Oh, the "work hard" myth and it's cousin "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps." Nostalgic and out of sync with today's society. Maybe it always was. But sadly, the "rags to riches" stories are so compelling, even though they are so rare.

We need to educate the next generations on economics, the impact of financial and life decisions, and how to recognize and deal with real opportunities and obstacles.

Glad the work on your house is getting done. Enjoy your "renewed" house!

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on April 07, 2021:

Like you, I never had to fear that my parents wouldn't stay together or support us in whatever we did. I didn't see poverty until I was much older. My husband and I made it a point to take our kids to the cardboard village in southern California and talk to some homeless people so they wouldn't be unaware of the inequality that exists all around us.



Misbah Sheikh from The World of Rebels. on April 07, 2021:

Mr. Bill, First of all, I am very happy that you are living a healthy and beautiful life. May God Always Shower His Countless Blessings on you and your family. Your life story is really very interesting, impressive and motivational. I am glad you have a good luck and your parents supported you very well. I like when you appreciate them and praise them. May God rest their kind souls in peace. Amen!

Peace and Blessings always

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on April 07, 2021:

Bill, you and I grew up in the same era, same town, but different neighborhoods. I was just barely west of Pacific Avenue. Both of my parents had an 8th-grade education. They bought a 50-year old house in 1948 and spent 25 years paying off that $6,000 debt. I guess we were poor, but I never felt that we were lacking anything. We had a warm home, plenty to eat, and a ton of love.

I don't know exactly where I'm going with that other than acknowledging that our "poverty" was nothing compared to what exists in other neighborhoods, other towns, other parts of our country, and the world. My husband spent a month working in India and saw living conditions there that made him weep.

Thank you for sharing your story.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 07, 2021:

I grew up during the same era with loving parents who worked hard, saved, and enjoyed a decent life. It was not until I was a teenager, after my family moved to South Texas, that I saw and understood poverty first-hand.

In Reynosa, Mexico, across from McAllen, people lived without running water and bathrooms in their houses. With exposed lightbulbs, community beds, and cracks under doors that vermin could easily enter, it was a real eye-opener.

Of course, as an adult, we can no longer assume that everyone gets a fair chance in life. All we can do is do what we can to help others. It can be accomplished through individual efforts, volunteering, and voting to get laws enacted to give everyone a fair chance at succeeding in life. As the saying goes: "It takes a village."

Congratulations on your kitchen and bathroom updates. It sounds like you got a good deal!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 07, 2021:

Thanks to your wise and loving parents, thanks to your positive attitude towards hope, and of course thanks to whatever measure of faith you had in God. There is so much of all this missing in today's homes and families. You're helping everyone by telling your story. I love this article.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on April 07, 2021:

I like your honest sharing. After university, I volunteered in a poor area in the Philippines. For two years, I taught there to give my life some meaning. Yes, the problem I faced was not the lack of food or other things, but boredom and the poor gave me meaning. I was always grateful for this. I suppose in Canada, society recognizes that life is not fair, so make it fair through taxes and surtaxes. I'm venting a bit after finishing my taxes last night. Sorry. My mind understands that full well, but my pocket hurts.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on April 07, 2021:

"Pockets of poverty..." That is the area I spent my whole life trying to stay out of. And, I prayed hard that my children would stay out of that pocket as well. I am one of those parents who always said, "If you can read, you can teach yourself to do anything." I do believe that. It might take some folks longer than others, but I do believe we can learn to do anything. My kids all went to college, some graduated. Some did not. For the ones who did not, I paid for them to learn a vocation. Get a piece of paper to show the world that you "know" something. That piece of paper will get you in the door. Then, work hard to make something out of it. If you are poor, you're poor and sometimes that is what life dealt you and there is nothing you can do about it. I just didn't want my kids to sit around BEING poor, meaning, just letting it happen. I know what it feels like to be wealthy and I know what it feels like to be poor. To me, there is no difference in the two sides of the coin. It's an attitude about self and life that keeps a person afloat.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on April 07, 2021:


Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

It is hard to imagine those countries where people are so down and out, but yet we often see it in our own backyards if we look.

Working hard was instilled in us as children.

If we wanted something, we had better get a job.

But you are right about the obstacles. There are things that one just can't get past.

So glad you & Bev took the plunge for the remodel.

I don't like financing but we might as well have what we deserve & want in this life.

Take care & have a great week.

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 07, 2021:

Traveling to other countries and rural America I have also seen gobsmacking poverty. There but for the grace ...

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on April 07, 2021:

This was a treat to read about your life. There are so many who are hurting today that never thought of life taking a downhill skid. I can remember, after my first marriage, our home cost $ 16.000 dollars and it was beautiful with a basement that we furnished into a recreation room. I feel for young couples who are just starting out, prices have gone over the top, and employment is difficult to get. This pandemic has changed many from fulfilling their dreams. Hopefully we will see better days. Thanks for the look back.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on April 07, 2021:

Love this Bill, i can relate to every word. I have owned four houses and am happier and more contented today than ever before. Thanks for sharing.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 07, 2021:

I wonder what the solution is. There is poverty, but I have meant people who were raised in poverty and are doing okay. I grew up in a middle class neighborhood in Ohio. We had very little money, and college was not an option. I put myself through college later in like.

My parents did teach me to work. I learned to sew and made my own clothes. I started working in a store at age 16. I never considered not working. Why did I survive fairly well and other did not?

I hate the thought of children that don't have enough to eat or proper clothing. I wish I had some answers. It is heartbreaking.

Ann Carr from SW England on April 07, 2021:

We're honoured that you've shared all that with us, bill. I too was lucky to be born into a home where there was a strong work ethic, yes, and loads of love, yes, but also a little good luck along the way, for both my parents in that they had a reasonable chance to start with, not rich but not desperately poor. My father studied hard, became an optician, and the rest, as they say, is history. My mother worked, stayed at home whilst I was little though, and had a few part-time jobs again later. I was extremely lucky but I too had no idea about the big bad world outside my little one, not until I went on to higher education. Then I had to get a little wiser very quickly!

We have to be aware of, we have to have empathy with, all those people and all those difficulties which many face.

Yes, we work towards rewards in the future but many have no idea of what rewards there could possibly exist for them. That is on our consciences, I hope. And our government's conscience, I hope. It certainly should be.

I'm sure you and Bev will thoroughly enjoy that kitchen and bathroom you have looked forward to for so long! I have no doubt that you deserve it.

Have a wonderful week, both of you!


Nell Rose from England on April 07, 2021:

So, so true Bill. My parents worked all their lives, but just managed to stay above the bread line. i then jumped ship and married a romany gypsy, lived in an old caravan and then had to fight to get a house from the council (renting). If I hadn't been so darn stubborn we wouldn't have the house we have now! lol! I am like a rottweiler when I fight for my family. We still have no money, but we are content.

manatita44 from london on April 07, 2021:

We all have dreams. Very happy that you and Bev, have completed such a beautiful one!

manatita44 from london on April 07, 2021:

Another exquisite piece! You also touched on white privilege without saying it. But yes, you show the awareness of how things can be. Many gifted people never make it and many without gifts do. Ultimately, I feel it's 'how the cookie crumbles.', whatever that means. Let's just say that all is mapped out in eternal time, in God's hour. The Divine Mother is so precise!

Yet She's also a spin-doctor .. a boxer, bobbing and weaving along the way.

'born into a vat of excrement and came out smelling like roses.'

Another great line I chose from you today. So like my poem! I would have to use another word for 'excrement', but we know that's, 'so Bill.' Ha-ha.

Another brilliant article incorporating great reflections in a timeless manner.

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