This was how a recent contestant on The Voice described her childhood. She said it with a smile and followed a profile of her journey to The Voice stage. It described being raised by a single mom in a situation that was poor in material goods but rich in emotional ones. Second hand stores but first-rate parenting.
This phrase that summarized her experience, “She gave us everything we needed and some of what we wanted,” resonated with me on several levels.
As a son, I could relate to both the struggles and triumphs of my own mother – amplifying an appreciation that already runs so deep.
As a parent, it reflects what I want to provide for my own daughters – an emphasis on how they experience the world not what they possess in it. Trying, of course, to make them happy but at the same time keeping them humble, grounded and grateful.
As a citizen, the phrase sets a reasonable bar for what any government should provide for its people. The idea of what we need encompasses both those tangible assets that are required for our growth (a good education, a decent wage, access to healthy food and clean water) and the intangibles that make opportunity possible (hope, freedom, dignity). Only when we have what we need are we properly situated to pursue more of what we want.
The woman who took The Voice stage gets up every morning and goes to work at 3:45 AM, where she makes breakfast sandwiches and a meager wage at a local food mart. Like her mother, she is a single mom.
Because not a single coach’s chair turned, she will not be advancing on The Voice – a dream deferred. Because her mom gave her what she needed, you believe her children still hold the potential to advance in life, to pursue their dreams.
How far will they go? It is too soon and too hard to tell.
But wouldn’t you feel more confident if, as a society, we did more to make sure that every child had what it needed, and maybe even giving them a little more of what they want?