My Family’s Humble Beginnings
As far as humble beginnings are concerned, mine was almost as modest as they come. Like so many others in this country who descended from slavery, my ancestry is a mystery to me. But I do have a few old, faded family photos. While I can’t look as far back as some people can, I can tell you a few things about my parents, JT and Marion Lester.
They were both born in Georgia and met in Atlanta in the 1940s. They were married when Dad was 21. Mom was just 13 years old and pregnant. They were poor with limited education, but they were more than that. My parents were also hardworking and committed to creating a better life for the family.
In 1957, with seven children in tow, they packed all of their worldly possessions into a 1954 Ford Falcon and moved from Atlanta to St. Louis in search of a better life. They found jobs with a wealthy family. My mother was the cook, maid, and caregiver (earning just $8 a day plus bus fare), while my father was the chauffeur, gardener, and handyman.
Then, in 1966, along came Lisa! It was far from an idyllic childhood. Mom was an alcoholic but generous to a fault; she would share anything she had to help another. She was also one of the wisest people I’ve ever known. I inherited generosity from her giving nature. Dad worked long hours to provide for us, but that meant he wasn’t around a whole lot. And he never missed a day of work, passing down this legendary work ethic to me, his youngest daughter.
It was crucial to them that their children went further and achieved more. It was essential to them – and therefore to me – that I stay in school, receive a proper education, and land a “good job.” My parents sacrificed so much to ensure our future, and they did the very best they could with what they had.
Finding My Way
I did stay in school, earned my degree, and launched a career more successful than anything they could have imagined. I’ve traveled the world, broken glass ceilings, lived in four states, and exceeded all expectations of my parents and our community.
And I’m not the only one. I was actually the second of my siblings to graduate college. My brother, W. Frank Lester, was the first. Notice my niece, Pamela, and I are in the picture beside him, proudly holding his diploma. He earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis. Today, Pamela, aka Pastor Pam, is helping fight the opioid crisis. And, is featured on billboards. Not only that, she may soon be the next State Representative for Missouri.
Since I graduated, many of my nieces and nephews have graduated college, started businesses, and achieved numerous accolades. We even have a doctor in the family!
Sometimes it’s hard for me to reconcile where I came from with where I am today. That’s not to brag, and it’s not to say there weren’t messy things that happened to me along the way (there were many). But, with the work ethic and the generosity of spirit my parents instilled in me, I had the ingredients for success. We all did. And, when I added my deep desire to honor my parents and make them proud to the mix, I created my secret sauce. I discovered my path and fought my way up to this life that I absolutely love.
Mama, Daddy – I wish you were here to see me now! Without a doubt, it would make you proud to see our family today.
Thus far, my journey has had many twists and turns. Some stops along the path were intentional, while others were very unexpected. Yet, at every stop, I discovered something that helped me reach the next destination. And I learned many priceless lessons. Now I want you to know something, which is very important. Your power, like mine, is not defined by where you came from. Nor is it defined by where you are going. Here is the real secret, the true magic: it is up to YOU to define your power when you finally choose to claim and wield it.
You are the author of your life story. Although you can’t rewrite your past or recreate your beginnings, you can still make history! I would be honored to show you how. Let’s talk!