Oh! The Troubles I’ve Seen #3 (Letter 5)

The Brother’s Keeper #30

Dear Y.B.M.:

“One trouble with trouble is that it usually starts out like fun.”

I trust that you are doing well. I hope that you have decided not to make any of the life-altering mistakes that I have made and thus avoid the troubles that I have experienced.

I am sure I surprised and nearly broke my mother’s heart many times as a teenager, but there were two instances in particular, when I am sure I broke her heart. I have already told you about one situation and that was when a young woman and I made the awful mistake of aborting our baby. What I didn’t tell you was that, for some strange reason, my mother went into my little gray safe that I kept under my bed in my bedroom, and she found the receipt from the doctor’s office. She was livid. She was speechless. She was so hurt she could not even bring herself to punish me for what I had done. I knew then that I had hurt her deeply.

Another time that I really hurt my mother (and this relates to the point of running with the wrong crowd and not thinking for myself), was when my boys and I took my mother’s car to go steal some beer, run some women, and party. Well, everything would have been fine if I had not run the car into the front of the store building in an attempt to get away from the store manager and the police. I guess I was so nervous I put the car into drive instead of reverse when we were trying to make our get-away. I crashed into one of the pillars in the front of the building nearly bringing down one side of the canopy. Although we escaped and went on with our partying, in the back of my mind, I was figuring out how I was going to explain to my mother the huge dent in her new Granada. (Back then, the Granada was the black man’s Mercedes.)

Well, the gang and I came up with a plan: we would get a rubber hammer and beat the dent out while she was at work at the telephone company in New Bern, N.C. The fellows and I got together, decided to skip school that day, and we went to my mother’s job with the rubber hammer, where we started beating the dent out of the Granada. It was around 10:00 a.m., and it just so happened to be my mother’s break-time. She was passing by the only window in the building when she saw us beating on her new Granada. I believe my mother was more hurt than angry. But she was enough of both to kill me if she could have gotten away with murder. My mother actually came to my bedroom that night and told me if I didn’t straighten up I was going to a reformatory school. Her tone of voice left no doubt in my mind that she was very serious. I didn’t know what a reformatory school was, but I knew I didn’t want to go there.

This was just another instance when I should have avoided trying to be cool and running with the gang, but instead should have followed my own mind.

The lesson for you, young black man, is this:

1. Think for yourself and lead others in the right way. Never be a follower, and never condone or be an accomplice to wrongdoing. Matthew 7:13 says, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.”

2. Don’t think that running with the wrong crowd is cool. Remember Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seemeth right to a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

3. Honour your parents so much so that you won’t do negative things that would cause them shame, embarrassment, heartache, and loss. Proverbs 1:8 says, “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.”

While you are young, understand that it is cool to stay in school and learn; it is cool to run with positive people who are learning and growing; and it is cool to think for yourself.

Yours for Avoiding Further Trouble,


P.T.: (Power Thoughts)

Someone once said, “Don’t think you’re on the right road just because it’s a well-beaten path.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Winston Churchill said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”


With All Thy Getting, Get Wisdom And Understanding (Letter 13)

[audio http://brotherskeeper.buzzsprout.com/26357/209524-with-all-thy-getting-get-wisdom-and-understanding-letter-13.mp3]

Dear Y.B.M.:

I trust that you are growing.

As I have shared with you in previous letters, it is true that gaining more education and acquiring knowledge is very important and essential to your success as we know it in this life. However, let me quickly say to you that there is something more important than these things, and that is obtaining WISDOM. While you are gaining more knowledge, please also get wisdom.

Notice what King Solomon said in Proverbs 4:7: “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”

What is wisdom? The word “wisdom” literally means having skill. Education will tell you how to do something, but wisdom will tell you why you ought to do something. And wisdom will also tell you when you ought to do something. In other words, knowledge or education is the automobile, but wisdom is the fuel. Wisdom is that supernatural edge that most people do not have, and have no idea how to get. King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said: Wisdom is more valuable than gold, silver and rubies. In fact, if you don’t have wisdom, you won’t have and certainly won’t keep much gold, silver and rubies.

Probably, besides my letter on “Get to Know Your Creator” (Letter Two), this short letter is the most important to your happiness, success, and advancement in this life.

Now very simply, here is the basic way to obtain true wisdom. But watch out: this is going to be so simple that you might miss it.


That’s right. If you want true wisdom, you must simply ask God for it. You cannot work for wisdom; you cannot study and get wisdom; you cannot borrow wisdom; you cannot buy wisdom; and you cannot extract wisdom from other human beings. The only way to get true wisdom is by simply praying and asking God for it. It is a free gift of the grace of God, as is your soul’s salvation.

James 1:5 says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

The glorious wisdom that God gives will open your eyes to so many things that you cannot see right now. The wisdom of God will give you the ability to see things that the average person does not see. Having the wisdom of God will also definitely give you an advantage — a great advantage in this life. So I urge you to ask God for wisdom to guide you throughout your life, and, friend, He will do it for you.

In closing this letter, let me also say that if you want to be wise, it is wise to walk or hang with wise men. King Solomon said in Proverbs 13:20, “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”

Dear Y.B.M., even though it feels good and may look cool, please don’t hang with fools because if you do, you will eventually become a fool yourself. Pick out those guys who are wise and hang with them and be a wise guy yourself.

Proverbs 4:7 says, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”

A Word To The Wise,


Power Thoughts

P.T.: Roy L. Smith said, “The world belongs to the man who is wise enough to change his mind in the presence of facts.”

Jean Jacques Rousseau said, “Patience is bitter but its fruit is sweet.”

Albert Einstein said, “Gentlemen, try not to become men of success. Rather, become men of value.”

T. H. said, “Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not.”


The Marks of a Truly Educated Man (Letter 12)

Dear Y.B.M.:

This letter is being written from the beautiful Kellogg Conference Center on the campus of Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama.

If you are an upwardly mobile individual, you may have wondered from time to time, how does one know that he is educated? In other words, what are the marks of an educated man?

Here are some of the marks that I have observed about truly knowledgeable people or those considered truly educated:

First, they have a healthy and humble respect and reverence for Almighty God. This principle of an educated man is found in the Book of Wisdom, which is the book of Proverbs in the Holy Bible. The verse reads: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

A person who does not acknowledge and reverence God Almighty is not considered a wise or educated man. In fact, God considers him a fool. “He is ignorant and knoweth nothing.” No matter how many years of schooling he has behind him, if he does not recognize and respect and fear Almighty God, he is a fool according to the Word of God. Psalm 14:1a says, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.”

There is an old negro saying that also comes to mind here: “Education without salvation is damnation.”

The other day I saw a very striking sign at a church. It read:

The dead atheist
The dead agnostic
and the dead saint
All believe God exists now.

A second mark of an educated man is that he is humble enough to admit his ignorance. He realizes that no matter how much he learns, he will never learn or know everything.

Third, a truly educated man continues his education long after his years in high school and college. He learns until he dies. In the words of Quincy Jones: “He grows until he goes.”

Another mark of a truly educated man is that he is authentic. He is an original. He is for real. He is himself. He knows he does not have to be like anyone else. He is therefore original in his thinking, his speaking, and his writing. An educated man is normally very comfortable with himself as well as with others. One commentator uses this phrase: “He is comfortable in his own skin.” I like it.

Another mark of an educated man is that he uses his education and knowledge for wise and good purposes. Of course, he uses it to generate a living for himself and his family. But not only for that, he also uses it to help others who are less fortunate than himself.

Sixth, to me, one of the greatest marks of an educated man is the ability to express himself clearly through his speech and through his writing.

Then, an educated man is a disciplined man. A disciplined man is willing and able to “do the worst first.” He is willing and ready to tackle the difficult jobs and tasks even when he does not feel like doing them.

Eighth, the educated man exudes an inexplicable quiet confidence about himself. He is not loud, boisterous or arrogant. But you somehow get the feeling that he knows what he is doing. He normally does not say much, but you somehow sense that if he does say something, it would be more important and weighty than what most people have to say.

Ninth, the educated man is not a perfect man, but he strives to be a moral man. He has a strong sense of what is right and wrong. And it is his aim to do the right thing. Because of this, he normally finds favor in the sight of God and man.

Finally, another mark of an educated man is that he understands etiquette and protocol. In other words, not only is he smart; he knows how to look smart as well. He knows what to say in different settings. He knows how to act at a backyard barbecue as well as at a stately dinner. He dresses and acts appropriately on any given occasion.

Dear Y.B.M., I strongly suggest that you strive to be this kind of man.

For The Educated Black Man,


P.T.: Power Thoughts

T. S. Eliot said, “It is part of the function of education to help us escape — not from our own time, for we are bound by that — but from the intellectual and emotional limitations of our own time.”

Aristotle said, “Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity.”

Roy Wilkins said, “Nothing is more important than a good education.”

Someone once said, “Without education you are not going anywhere in this world. Education is the passport to our future.”

Victor Hugo said, “He who opens a school door, closes a prison.”

H. G. Wells said, “Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.”


Graduating From College and Still Ignorant and Unlearned (Letter 11)

Dear Y.B.M.:

I trust that you are increasing in knowledge, understanding and wisdom.

I am writing this letter from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.

Now on the matter of education, I would like to kindly say to you, dear friend, please, please do not graduate from college ignorant, and sounding and looking uneducated.

To me, one of the most appalling things to see is a young man or woman for that matter, who has gone through four years of college and turned out to be just as dumb and ignorant as before he or she went in. I am forever amazed at people who have graduated from college, yet butcher the English language, come out with muddled thinking, and do not even know basic facts of history. For crying out loud, please do not come out of college like that. That is a waste of money and time.

How do people come out of a four-year institution of higher learning ignorant anyway? I believe it is because they go into college with the wrong idea of what college is for. Some go with no intentions on learning anything. These dear souls have nothing else to do, so they go to college with their buddies to pass the time and to carry on the same childish antics that they did in high school. And before they know it, the time that they wanted to pass passes away, and they barely graduate having cheated and skated their way through college, never having learned the very basics of a college education.

Sadly, often times, these dear souls come out of college throwing down the same old foolishness they were throwing down before they went to college. Then they want a Fortune 500 Company to hire them on. And when they fail a simple test to get an entry-level position, they cry racism. How ridiculous!

Dear Y.B.M., if you have the opportunity to go to college, go to college to learn something — not to play.

Yours For Learning Something,


Power Thoughts

P.T.: Bill Cosby said, “We cannot afford to settle for being just average; we must learn as much as we can to be the best that we can. The key word is education – that’s knowledge — education with maximum effort.”

Harry Houdini said, “My brain is the key to set me free.”

The Slogan of the United Negro College Fund is, “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

Steven Silbiger said, “The best possible investment you can make in your future is an education. Even if you default on your student loan, nobody can repossess your diploma.”


The Obstacles To Getting A Good Education (Letter 10)

Dear Y.B.M.:

At this writing, I am on the steps of the Coleman Library on the campus of Florida A & M University in Tallahassee, Florida. I will be speaking in a couple of churches in the area on Sunday.

Frankly, I wish I had someone to write me like this when I was your age.

Now, on this important matter of getting a good college education: you will have some obstacles, to say the least.

The first obstacle that you will face is yourself. Why? Because the process of truly learning is laborious, monotonous, and at times downright bitter and boring. Therefore, obtaining a truly higher education will require of you a determined mind and a will to stick and stay. In short, it will take discipline. But in the end, it will be worth it all.

Your second obstacle to obtaining a higher education is the ever present lure of immediate money and gratification. This is a temptation. For example, you may have a good paying job right now and you don’t want to leave it to go to college or you don’t want to cut back on your hours so that you can go, at least, part-time. I recall, upon my graduation from high school, my parents wanted me to go on to college at Gardner-Webb College in North Carolina. However, I was too short-sighted, and, frankly, too foolish to take their advice because I had this restaurant job in high school that offered me a new job as trainer and assistant manager for new restaurants that were opening up. In my view, the money was good, so I opted for the fast money and the fast lifestyle of partying, women and drinking — immediate gratification. However, thankfully, by the grace of God, I came to my senses and began the higher learning process, and became a college graduate later.

My friend, you will learn in life that you must postpone gratification to reach for something far more important and valuable. One great preacher of the past put it this way:

You cannot offer up the future on the altar of the immediate.

Of course, he is so right. I hope that you will learn this great lesson early instead of later.

A third obstacle that you will face will be your friends. Just as all men do not have faith, all men do not have knowledge, or wisdom or good sense. Just because your friends appear to be cool and powerful does not mean they have wisdom and good sense. If they are not increasing in knowledge, and if they are not exhorting you to do the same, then you are flying with the wrong birds. Get rid of them. Don’t listen to them. Please don’t let them keep you back from something as valuable as this.

The fourth obstacle will be finding the right college. Every college or university is not necessarily the right institution of higher learning for you. There are some colleges and universities that “teach you why.” Then there are colleges and universities that “teach you how.” And then there are colleges and universities that “teach you why and how.” For the sake of common sense, please try to get into the college or university that can teach you the “why and the how.”

A good way to determine whether or not a college is a “why or how” college is by examining the kind of people the college produces.

The students who come from the “why school” and the students who come from the “how school” will normally have the following characteristics:

They have that locked in, locked down mentality (commonly called the slave mentality.) This mentality is bent on working for somebody for thirty years, retiring, and then dying with nothing. In my opinion, these people do not carry the edge of what I call inside knowledge.

The students from the “why and how” college or university on the other hand, will normally have the following characteristics:

Independent thinkers, innovative, entrepreneurs; they may work for somebody for a little while, but their aim is to be in charge of their own business or what have you. These kind of folks will normally rise to the top more quickly than the rest of the pack. They will have their eyes on being free and doing their own thing. They have the inside scoop — the inside knowledge.

Proverbs 4:7 says, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”

Your fifth obstacle, of course, will be the money. Please do not let the money problem strike fear into your heart because even in these days there are ways in which one can get an education, if he really wants to. Here are a few ways:

1. Prayer
2. Work part-time. Many have done it successfully.
3. Well-off family members.
4. External study colleges.
5. Junior or Community Colleges.
6. Scholarships for good grades
7. Financial Aid – Student Loans

And there are other options as well.

All I want to say to you in closing is this: I don’t care what it takes, or how much it costs, please get yourself a good education. You will never regret it.

For a Smarter Young Black Man,


Power Thoughts

Dr. Addie Mitchell said, “If you plan for a year, sow a seed;
If you plan for a decade, plant a tree
If you plan for a century, educate the people.”

Earl G. Graves said, “Education is the primary tool of emancipation and liberation for African-Americans in our fight for true equality in this country.”

Someone said, “Education is your passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”

Governor Douglas Wilder said, “In the absence of education, all else fails.”


The Importance of Increasing Knowledge (Letter 9)

Dear Y.B.M.:

I am writing this letter from the beautiful F.W. Bluford Library on the historically black North Carolina A & T University in Greensboro, North Carolina. I am in town for a special meeting that I am to speak at in a local church. But my being here in this particular library is quite fitting since in this letter I wish to encourage you to get a good education. This matter of getting a good education, or rather, increasing your knowledge, is extremely important — so important that even God addresses it in His Word: the Bible. Notice these words from the book of Proverbs 1:5:

“A wise man will hear and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.”

The value of getting a good education or “increasing your knowledge” is all around us. Notice just seven of the many advantages of “increasing your knowledge.”

First, through increasing your knowledge, you will receive personal enrichment and fulfillment.

Second, increasing your knowledge will give you a greater capacity to help others.

Third, getting a good education will, generally speaking, allow you throughout your life to do better financially and materially.

Fourth, increasing your knowledge will help you to deal with the vicissitudes of life better.

Fifth, increasing your knowledge will help you to interact with your family and other people better.

Sixth, getting a good education will allow you to better express yourself through speech and writing.

Seventh, increasing your knowledge can help you to become a more humble individual because you will find, as you increase in knowledge, how ignorant you really are. Now, you may not think humility is a good quality to possess, but the fact of the matter is that you can’t go up until you come down.

Proverbs 15:33 says, “The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.”

Matthew 18:4 says, “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.”

The aforementioned advantages of getting a good education are just a few of the many advantages. There are many more. You will find them out as you increase your knowledge.

As I wrap this letter up, may I kindly but firmly say to you “CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE TOWARD EDUCATION AND KNOWLEDGE?” High school and college are not times to play! School time is not a time for partying! School is not a time for foolishness! School is serious business! Very serious business! Somebody somewhere is paying good money for you to obtain this knowledge. It is either your parents, some other member of your family, Mr. Tax-payer or yourself. This is not the time to be Mr. Cool! Change your attitude towards education, increase your knowledge and become a more powerful individual.

Do your best in High School, and get a good college education of some sort “by any means necessary.”

For the Increasing of Knowledge,


Power Thoughts

P.T.: Nelson Mandela said, “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “When we go into action and confront our adversaries, we must be as armed with as much knowledge as they.”

Romare Bearden said, “Real knowledge, properly used, will help anyone.”

Daniel J. Boorstin said, “Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”

Daniel Whyte III said, “The classroom is a sanctuary.”