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Lessons from a Bully

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2013-05-13-73441895102006658926772589518956306695n.jpg
by Marquis Lockett
Death is the only word that could explain the looks on their faces. I wanted to know who died, but was too scared to ask. My father's Acura in the garage at three o'clock on a weekday was the first clue something wasn't right. When I walked into the house, a tension slapped me in the face as I noticed my parents' looks of sorrow. Was it my grandparents? My sister? A close family friend? No. It was my father's career at Johnson and Johnson that had been put to rest after nineteen years. At this moment I met my first bully: the recession.

My dad's unemployment threw me into the ring against the heavyweight champion of America: the economy of 2009. My hometown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, was the kind of community that shielded you from seeing beyond good schools, large colonial homes, and the renowned reenactment of George Washington crossing the Delaware River. I soon realized that this view of life was not free.

Instead of seeing Public Enemies in the movie theater, I relied on my friends' descriptions of John Dillinger's robberies. On hot summer days, I walked passed Rita's Water Ice with an empty wallet. Worst of all, my parents could no longer afford my trip to Europe as a student ambassador.

Until then, I lived by a common American ethic: work hard and opportunities materialize. I began to question this idea until my grandparents came through at the last minute. They worked for some 120 years combined: Granddaddy as a teacher and my Granny as a U.S Postal worker. To help out, they dipped into their retirement savings and sacrificed a trip they were planning to finance mine.

I traveled to France, Greece, and Italy the summer before my sophomore year. In Italy, I spent three days with the Rossis, an Italian family. I first struggled with the language barrier when I met Arianna Rossi, the family's teenage daughter. We discovered we both spoke Spanish and communicated through that language. In doing so, we crystallized our commonalities. We both loved hanging out with friends and both confronted the same "he said she said" teenage drama.

The Rossis' family dinner was always first priority and I learned to "properly" eat pasta. The parents and the kids were not the only ones at the table; Arianna's grandparents were there as well. Unfortunately, my grandparents live in California so dinner with them every night isn't an option. However, these moments with the Rossis touched me because I owed this very experience to my grandparents. Living with the Rossis helped me see the cross cultural power of family.

When I returned home, the recession blindsided me once again. My mom announced that my father found a new job and we were moving to Boston in a month. As soon as I heard "moving" I stormed out of the room.

A month passed in a day's worth of time and I found myself waking up in a small suburb called Hopkinton. I went from a school of more than 3,000 kids to one with barely 1,200 where "wicked" was the most popular word. I no longer heard words from my Bucks County vocabulary: "cool," "nice," and "ill." I also noticed that my Philadelphia Eagles' jersey triggered frowns in New England Patriot Nation. Once again I was experiencing culture shock but this time in Hopkinton, Massachusetts.

In Italy, I learned that speaking a different language did not have to divide people. Using this thought process, football became my vehicle of assimilation into my new school. Like math, football doesn't change geographically so I dove into the program. It was difficult going from a playoff caliber team in Bucks County to a losing one that had finished 3-8 the previous season. My days with the Rossi family gave me the confidence to search for similarities with my new teammates. I made new friends with new accents and our team improved to a 6-4 record last year. Through my battles with that bully, the recession, I have became a stronger person and learned a lesson. No matter where you are, people are people. With that knowledge, I can succeed anywhere.

Marquis Lockett just finished his freshman year at Morehouse College and is a 2012 graduate of Hopkinton High School in Hopkinton, MA.