I taught myself how to read before I started school. I forced my parents to help me learn. My mother preferred that I go outside to play and not bother her. I studied on my own all through school, because my goal was to get out of the environment I lived in, even though my parents told me that it was useless to try. I read dozens of books every month. To be honest, school held me back. I did my homework and then studied things that were not part of the curriculum. My parents told me to forget about college, because they could not afford it. They also told my three younger brothers the same thing. All of us graduated from college, taking a lot longer than the average college student. I attended public grade schools, which my parents paid for through their taxes. The schools were in a poor neighborhood, so they were sub-standard compared to other communities. When I graduated from high school in 1969, I did not know how to use a telephone, because we could not afford one. I left home the day after I graduated from high school, and have been self-sufficient ever since. I grew up in a suburb or L.A., not some rural community. The neighborhood I grew up in was tough. In the 1950's we were already plagued with gangs, although I avoided any personal interaction with them. Crime was around us. Shootings were not uncommon. When I was about 9 the FBI had a huge shoot out just 3 doors down from our house. The next day the sidewalk and street was covered in dried blood.
As a kid I had severe asthma. There was no money for doctors or treatment, and once in a while there was money for a rescue inhaler. I spent many a night, sitting up in my bed propped up with pillows fighting to breath and unable to sleep. Unable to get the medical treatment I needed, when I was about 12, I did my own research. I read an article on how kids might be able to outgrow asthma, and the importance of building up the lungs. So I gave up my beloved sport of baseball, and decided to become a distance runner. 5 years later, the asthma was gone. I had a happy childhood though. I was involved in sports and activities. I ran track and cross country barefooted for two years, because I could not afford shoes. I also collected stamps as a hobby. My parents gave me 35 cents a day for lunch. For 8 years I never ate lunch. I bought and sold stamps. The profit allowed me to build my own collection, which I still have and enjoy. In high school my coaches were concerned about my health, because I was so thin. Sometimes they would try to give me money for food or buy meal a meal, but I was too proud to accept it.
My current family doctor attended a private college (USC), as did my dentist.
Every week I pay myself first. That is, I put money away, so in case of an emergency, I do not have to depend on someone else. For many years I did "without" life's little luxuries so I could handle any almost any situation that would otherwise require assistance. I do not expect anyone to help me, nor would I ask. Should I get a terminal disease, and could not afford treatment; then that is life. No one owes me anything, and there are no guarantees in life. It is my life and I am responsible for my own happiness and well-being.
My kids attended private schools. They went to public colleges, which WE paid for. Part through my taxes, part through my money, and part paid by the kids themselves who worked through college. I could have paid for the kids' portion, but they needed to have some "skin in the game." I think that part was an important part of their college education. I had to work two jobs and run a small business to afford the private schools, even though part of my taxes were going to the public schools I was not using.
When my kids were born, I could only afford major medical insurance. No maternity insurance. I saved my money and paid for the delivery of my kids. Just before my daughter was born, the city required our neighborhood to connect to a new sewer line. The cost to have a contractor do it was all the money I had saved for the delivery. I read up on plumbing, and did the work myself at night in the dark over a period of several weeks. I had no experience doing this kind of work. The city fought me over this, but it met their code.
Yes I would have had the same opportunities with a different color, name, or other. To be honest, when I was a young adult, being a minority opened doors that people like me had to open by results and performance. It was a period of reverse discrimination... although I did not look at it that way. Minorities got most of the college scholarships. Minorities got the government jobs (not that I was interested in one). It was my responsibility to create my own opportunities, and it took me 23 years to earn my Bachelor's degree. That is because unlucky things happened to me at times, or I made poor decisions. I had to learn a trade during this period to meet my obligations, and then complete my education later. My kids attended my college graduation. I was going to college, paying for their private school, and my main job was a mechanic in a gas station during this period, while also running a small business with a few employees. I slept only 4 or 5 hours each night. I could not take a lunch break during the day, because I would fall asleep and be late back to work. So I worked during lunch without overtime.
When I was in my early 20's I had a very rough period. Each day I ate one XLNT Tamale for breakfast and one for dinner. They cost 11 cents each. This was all I had for a couple of months. I could have probably asked my parents for help, or even lived with them. But I chose not too.
Eventually the college degree opened other opportunities for me... but only opened them, I had to perform at a high level to progress.
Through all these times, I have been happy. I also somehow found time for a few epic hiking trips, and have backpacked every year since I was in high school. I think I have had a successful life, without help from anyone.
My wife is also successful, and she is the "wrong" color. We are an inter-racial couple, and I understand better than most about discrimination. White people sometimes discriminate against us, and her race often discriminates against us. But that is not a problem, because ultimately we are judged by who we are, not what color we are. We are the ones who have to cause this change in perception, by our actions and performance. She has never accepted help from anyone either. She has earned her way, although not always easily.
I have always worked for private companies. I have never obtained income through my job or personal life from any government agency. The companies I have worked for do not do business with the government.
They only debt I owe is to the thinkers who lived before me. A few years ago during my company's merit review process, my boss gave me a merit raise and told me he was "taking care of me." I refused the raise. I told him I do not accept charity for anything I have not earned. I told him to only give me a raise if I earned it, and that I expected any raise to be in line with my performance. Eventually I got a raise that was even higher, but I would not accept it until he acknowledged that I had earned it. This is how my brain works.
I believe that in the U.S. poor people are poor by choice. They can change their position in life. Yes, they may have to work harder... much harder than the average person. But it can be done.
All of this is not to brag, or to make myself some sort of hero. Life is tough at times. Today I am now better off than most, but not rich. It has taken decades to get here, and most of those years required 60, 80, 100 hours of work per week. Somehow I have also been able to enjoy leisure time while putting in these kinds of hours. Everything I do is focused on work, family, and enjoying life. I do not waste a minute with anything that is not important to me or productive. A quiet evening with my wife is productive. Going on vacation or hiking is productive. Work is productive. I have earned every dime I have saved. I do not think anyone is entitled to take the fruits of my labor from me, not matter what someone else needs.
The U.S. is a great country. And we do not owe any of its citizens anything, other than their basic human rights. The rest is up to them.