Let’s talk about dreams. No, not the kind I have about Maria Nikolaevna, my history crush. I mean the dreams we have in life. Growing up as a kid in Port Arthur, Texas, I dreamed of a couple of things. First of all, I wanted to be a firefighter. Second, I wanted to write a book. Okay, to be completely honest, I also dreamed of playing the NFL. The Golden Triangle area (made of up Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Orange) is the football capital of the world with more NFL players per capita than anywhere else on the planet. So that’s a common enough dream there. Some, like Jamaal Charles do make it. Others, like me, do not. Though my pursuit of said dream stopped when I was ten, but I digress.
I’ve been truly fortunate in life. My two real dreams came true. I became a firefighter and lived the dream for many years. After I retired and became a professor, I also had time to pursue the second dream. My book came out in the spring of 2019. As I stand here and type this, I can say that my two biggest dreams in life became a reality. This does not mean that I have or had it easy. I didn’t. But my dreams came true and I thank all things holy for that on a regular basis. Ever since my book came out, though, I’ve been slowly focusing on a new dream. One that, in my most sincere hopes and prayers, will come true one day.
So what is it?
Reader mine, the city that I grew up in is a rough place. It’s got a high poverty rate. Around 1/3rd of the children in the city live in poverty. There’s a high crime rate. A large number of vacant, boarded up buildings in the old downtown area. Drugs. Gangs. You name it. But you know what else it has? Some truly amazing, wonderful people. The best you’ll find anywhere. It’s got great music. Great food. And an enduring spirit, as evidenced by the fact that the city is still there despite getting slammed by hurricanes regularly. I am PROUD to call Port Arthur my hometown, and I love the city and its people with all my heart. And this, Dear Reader, is where my new dream comes into play.
Yes, I published my first book last year (and was proud to donate a copy to the Port Arthur Public Library), but you’ll notice I haven’t posted any pictures of me jetting off to Tahiti on vacation. Sales have been modest, but I wrote the book for love, not money. I’ve finished book two (it’s in the editing process now) and I’m working on book three. In order for this dream of mine to come true, one or both of these books must land me a big publishing deal. I want that not for me. I’ve been broke my whole life and wouldn’t otherwise know what to do with the money. I want to do it so that I can put the money into my dream.
My dream, Reader Mine, is to open a boxing gym in the old downtown part of Port Arthur. With all the vacant buildings, I’m sure there’ll be something suitable. This won’t be any old boxing gym though. It will be free of charge to the children of Port Arthur. And it would be more than just a gym. At the end of the school day, I would have vans or buses pick up children from the elementary schools and bring them to the gym. When they arrived, they would get a healthy snack first, and then I would have tutors to help with them with their homework. After that, and only after that, would they be allowed to work out. In the evening, the buses would then deliver them to their homes.
This would serve several purposes. First of all, it would give kids something healthy to belong too at an age when they are susceptible to the influence of street gangs. Second, many of the children in Port Arthur live in single parent homes and when they get home from school, they are often alone for several hours. The gym would give them adult supervision and also provide some good role models, as there are some old fighters that live in the city that I would recruit to run the gym for me. Finally, it gives them a positive outlet for their energy. We would not be training kids to box in the Golden Gloves or turn pro. This would simply be a boxing gym where they could work out, so things like CTE wouldn’t be a problem. The healthy snack is important too, unless PAISD has improved the gruel they served us for lunch back in the 80s.
I would set up a non-profit to actually handle the gym and all associated components. And I would fund it myself until we got enough interest from businesses and community leaders willing to invest in it. Every dime brought in would go right back into the gym. I would not take so much as a cent for my personal coffers. (Though the gym manager, trainers, tutors, and drivers would be paid a salary). I really think that if I once I have enough to get it off the ground, it will be a long term benefit to the city.
I’ve always been the kind to put the service of my community at large above my own personal needs. That’s why I became a firefighter. And that’s why I became a community college professor. In the faces of my students in the classroom, I see my own face. When I see the faces of the children of Port Arthur, I see my own face, because I was one of them once too. I’m lucky, very lucky, to have chosen a path in life that has led me to some amazing places. And I think it is incumbent upon those whom life has blessed to share that with others if they can.
It might be years. It might be a decade or more. But I will make this happen one day. Of that, you can be sure.
Until next time, Dear Readers, take care of yourselves, and each other.