I was 18 years old. I had jumped jobs several times. I was in the middle of my 1st move of many degree pursuits in college. I remember feeling so frustrated not knowing where to unleash the dreams that were welling up inside me to do something more! I remember having a very pointed conversation with my youth pastor’s wife Norma that would stick with me for the rest of my adult life.
Every day that I was coming home after my morning classes or work I would stop in at our church on the way to say hi to everyone which included my senior pastor, his wife, & our church secretary Norma. The real reason I would stop in is because if I stayed long enough & volunteered to help out with things at the church, they would feed me lunch. To a 19 year old always “starving” young man, that was like Christmas every day! Being 19 & involved in college sports made a dangerous grocery budget situation for my parents! Needless to say, they were thankful I was stopping in at the church to help out with projects that needed done. One of those days we were having one of my favorite lunches over Ginos pizza with banana peppers. Ginos is my second favorite pizza in the world! Norma was a little Mexican lady from Brownsville, TX, that introduced me to all kinds of new flavor combinations, like banana peppers on pizza, & helped me develop my love for Mexican food. If you are what you eat, I am Mexican. Thanks to Norma!
One of those days of taking a break from the work that needed done, she looked at me & realized for some time the situation I was in. She saw a young man with passion that needed to take helm of the ship that blew every direction with the wind. She said to me, “David, don’t despise small beginnings.” Here’s what I heard in my mind. “Stop running all over the place trying to figure it out. Buckle down where you find yourself & do the best with what you’ve been given.” She elaborated, “Work hard right where you’re at & God will bless you with more when He sees you can be trusted with the little you have now. Work hard & do your best, & when the time is right, the doors will open for you.”
Man, it was fresh life to my weary & wandering heart. But oh how I wished I would have listened to her! I heard what she said, but I didn’t really listen. I knew what I should’ve done. I knew God spoke to my heart & said “stay one more semester.” I should’ve stayed. I should’ve finished strong. I should’ve stayed on my college soccer team. I should’ve stayed at my job at the “Baby Gap”. Yes I said the “Baby Gap”. Don’t judge, they were hiring at the mall nearby & I needed money. I should’ve finished working there through the next semester. What did I do?
Typically, my routine was that I’d take the 1hr & 20 minute drive home from my dorm room at LaRoche College in Pittsburgh to stay at my parent’s house over the weekend. I came home late one night while I was stewing. I was thinking about how I needed to start my future. I couldn’t wait for it & be patient anymore. The whole 2 weeks that I had decided I was going to push through was over. What did Norma know anyway? If you were going to do something, you couldn’t wait for it. You had to make it happen! The semester was about over & it was about to be summer break. If I was going to do something it had to be now! I was talking with a friend late that night & told them, “I’m ready. I need to get out of here.” After I hung up the phone, that night at 11pm I began driving trying to figure out just what it was I should do. I stopped at a gas station to fill my car. I saw a US map in a rack of AAA atlases. This was back in the day when cell phones were just gaining traction & GPS wasn’t even really a thing yet. I bought the map & filled up my car. While the car was filling I began leafing through & landed on Franklin, Tennessee. I decided I knew exactly what I should do. I went back home. When I started attending college I had moved to the basement where I essentially had my own apartment so my Dad could take over my bedroom as his office. I had my own entrance to come & go as I please. While my parents & sister were sleeping, I began packing my car with clothes (no suitcase), artwork that I had in my portfolio, & a giant plastic Coke bottle piggy bank full of money. At midnight, I quietly pulled out of the driveway to begin my new adventure. And boy was it an adventure… Franklin, TN, right next to Nashville. The place I thought my dreams were made of.