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"uncle shorty"

BY KEVIN KING

I  remember  leaving  community  college and  heading  to  Tuskegee  University  in the  fall  of 1998,  and  being  told,  for  the first  time,  by  my  mother  that  it was more  wise  for  me  to focus on my education instead of getting a job and working while taking classes. At some point  I  mentioned  what  I  had  been  told by  my  mother to  an older  adult  at the time and they asked me about why was I so obsessed with working. They were curious to know -  did  most people  my age and  in my circle of  friends back  home have the same  intensity and drive to maintain a consistent and quality work ethic? 

They  proceeded  to  ask  where  did  this mentality  come  from  and  have  I  always  thought this way...  I thought for a second and it quickly dawned on me that my Uncle Shorty was the cause of this. I reflected on the time when I was eleven years old cutting his  half acre of  land every Saturday morning with a riding mower. This was always fun for me because I got to pretend that I was driving my own vehicle. Uncle Shorty would always put a Gatorade in the deep freezer and I looked forward to drinking it afterwards. He would give me $20 and I would always talk about how cheap he was even though I was getting paid to ride around and have fun.

I  usually  finished  my  duties  around  noon  and  my  Aunt  Wanda  would  often  serve  me
lunch. Many times Uncle Shorty would ask  if I wanted to stop by a  fast food restaurant
on the way home and excitedly I would say yes! He would graciously allow me to order
first. After ordering what I wanted no matter how expensive I would step aside for him to
order his food and pay for the both of us. After all, he’s the adult and I’m just a poor and
helpless 6th grader!

Uncle  Shorty,  much  to  my  disappointment,  would  tell  the clerk  that  we  had  separate
orders,  and  he  would  say,  "Kevin  you  just  worked  and  got  paid  so you  need  to  pay for your own food."  

After a few times of experiencing this same encounter, I began to think whether or not it
was more beneficial to spend my money on fast food or eat leftovers when I got home. I
always thought Uncle Shorty was just being a cheapskate until I grew up and realized that
I never had an issue holding a job, didn’t spend money on things I didn’t really need very
often, and I didn’t expect anything from anyone. This mindset didn’t happen by accident. 
Uncle Shorty took the responsibility to intentionally teach me these life skills because he
knew  the  damage  it  would  cause  if  I  didn’t  develop  a  work  ethic,  become  somewhat
independent, and understand delayed versus instant gratification. If he would’ve lectured
me  on  these  things  I  wouldn’t  have  heard  him,  so  years  of  demonstrating  this  and
allowing me to experience this really paid off especially during tough times.

I thank him for being the mentor I needed even if I didn’t understand it at the time. I get it
now, and I’m still  learning those principles that were passed along by  my Uncle Shorty
who taught me a little about what it means to be a man. My uncle  is one of  my  biggest
inspirations and a huge reason why I am so passionate about long-term mentoring.