You will never amount to anything. You’re just a welfare kid.
These were the words spoken to demean me by those who were supposed to love me but instead subjected me to emotional abuse. When I was 6 years old I didn’t realize I was an aid to dependent child, or otherwise known as a “welfare kid” but I remember the feeling of loneliness, feeling different, set aside. I felt desperate and confused, but above all I felt hungry; my little stomach was empty and growling back at me.
I grew up in the land of the brave and not-so-free. The air was infused with discrimination, and poverty was the smog of its destruction. As a child, I knew little of this—the empty refrigerator in my family home had nothing to do with politics or race to my six-year-old self. Welfare was a status quo so omnipresent we rarely questioned it, but we did rise above it. You don’t need a gourmet meal if you know how to appreciate a perfectly delicious mayonnaise and sugar sandwich. You don’t need a room full of books if you have a playground and an epic imagination. I created my own wealth out of gratitude for what I had.