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A New Day. A New Hope. I'll Make It.

Updated: Feb 22, 2020

“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” ― Maya Angelou

GRIT Don't Quit

Grit is a trait based on an individual’s perseverance of effort combined with the passion for a particular long-term goal.

In other words, grit is effort + passion = reaching your goals!

I remember when I was in high school, my version of grit or hopes and dreams was not to become a victim of my past and to do whatever it took to maximize my potential and no doubt about it capture my hopes and dreams. I did not realize how much of an uphill road I had to climb.

I was born in Las Vegas, Nevada. Both of my parents were involved in the mafia. When I was four years old my father was murdered by two mafia associates. My mother and I were not safe and as a result she hid me in the Nevada desert in a camper with some close mafia friends while she fled. One night while crawling into bed in the camper, I could hear voices below me. It was my two young friends about my same age. We were talking about tomorrow’s adventures that we would see and do. Suddenly, there was a tremendous explosion! I was slammed extremely hard against the roof and wall of the camper. The camper had now burst into flames! The people who murdered my father found us hiding in the camper. I was told an incendiary device had been attached to the camper and blew it up. I was found hours later wandering in the desert by the Nevada highway patrol. When my mother found me, I was at a hospital in Las Vegas. I had some bruises, scrapes and scratches, (to this day my hearing in one ear has been damaged). However, my mother told me I was covered in blood when I was found. It was not my blood; it was the blood of my two friends. Tragically, they did not survive the explosion. Years later, the loss of my two playmates was very hard for me to navigate.

Sensing that we were still in danger, other mafia associates flew my mother and myself to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to get away from those who were trying to harm us. There was a man in Puerto Vallarta who met us and provided us with sanctuary by living in his home. One day, this man took me and my mother out on his boat and we went to a beautiful cove. As the boat moved closer and closer to the sand, my mother said to me with a bit of a trembling voice, “Michael, jump into the water swim to the beach and build sandcastles.” I remember jumping off the front of the boat and today I think to myself, “Wow, at age 4, I could swim?” However, I’m sure it was much more like an uncoordinated dog paddle than real swimming. While being on the beach my mother and the man where in the boat. As I looked up from the shore, I could see that my mother was quite disturbed, somewhat panicked. No sounds came from her, just a look of deep sadness and fear. The man had a gun and it was pointed at my mother. At this young age, I did not realize the danger which a gun could present. In fact, I’m pretty sure I had never seen a gun before. It was years later that my mother told me that while I was on the beach and she was in the boat with that man, that he demanded her to do awful things. I remember seeing a lot of terror on my mother’s face while in the boat. I really did not understand what was going on. When we returned to this man’s house that afternoon, I was a bit restless. You’ve got to remember; I was only four years old and sometimes four-year-old boys do pretty goofy things. Well, I was definitely doing goofy things like running around this man’s house barking like a dog. It was at this time that this man grabbed me by the throat and begin to slap me in the face and yell, “Dogs are not supposed to be inside of the house, they are supposed to be outside! Come on dog let’s go!” He took me outside and tied me to a tree and yelled at me and laughed at me and said, “You are a little dog, you will remain outside!” My mother could not take any more of this awful treatment, as a result, in the middle of the night she woke me and said, “Let’s go, be quiet.” We quickly walked a couple of blocks from this man’s house to meet an awaiting cab to take us to the airport. We flew back to Las Vegas where my mother once again, handed me off to another family so that I could be hidden and protected.

My mother went back to work as a dealer at a Las Vegas casino. She tells me that one day a man walked into the casino and sat down at her blackjack table. She looked at him and he looked at her, they both gave each other a wink, they knew each other. The man who sat down at my mother’s blackjack table was the man who courageously hid me in his camper in the Nevada desert. Suddenly, there was a huge explosion outside the casino on the street. My mother tells me the people inside the casino were screaming and yelling and diving for cover underneath the gambling tables. My mother told me that it was at this time the man, our family friend, stood up, looked at my mother and said, “It’s finished.” as he blew her a kiss, turned around and slowly walked outside to the wailing sound of sirens, confusion and panic. My mother tells me the explosion was a car that had exploded just outside of her casino. As it turns out there was an incendiary device attached to the car. My mother’s friend who was at the blackjack table was the one who blew up the car outside of the casino. The two men in the car were the mafia men who murdered my father and killed our friend’s two little boys while they were in the camper in the Nevada desert. The men in the blown-up car did not survive.

What I have shared with you is a very tragic story, one that I remember quite vividly to this day. However, a more tragic part of the story was that my mother, due to the loss of her husband and the tragic events which followed, led my mother to becoming an alcoholic and a substance abuser. This was a very, very challenging environment to grow up in. As a result, when I became a high school student, I had a drive deep down inside of me. I said to myself, “I will do whatever it takes to maximize my potential. I will set out to capture my hopes and dreams.” I was 16 years old when I made this proclamation of capturing my hopes and dreams.

In life, we will have a lot of ups and a lot of downs. Many of my students have experienced parents who divorce, alcoholism, drugs, abuse, death of a loved one, and much more. I share this story with you and my students to help them see that Mr. Brown has gone through a horrendous time in his past. However, I want to give you and my students hope. The hope is I made it. I did. I really made it and I’m here to try and help you and my students safely navigate this thing we call life. Life with its many ups and downs.

In my next blog called, “3 Challenging Choices Which Will Help You Move Forward”, I will explain 3 steps to help you move forward when you feel like the light is so very dim.

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