Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Search for the American Dream

I've been reading a book called Scratch Beginnings - Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream by Adam Shephard. Adam asked me to read it, and I said I'd love to because it sounded very interesting. It took me a while to finish it, not because it's a really long book, but because I have a hard time making time for reading any more, and because there's a lot in this book, and it was good to take the time and think about it as I read.

In the book Adam chronicles his experiences as he started from scratch in a random city, Charleston, SC, with only a sleeping bag, $25, and the clothes on his back. He gave himself one year, 365 days, to become a 'regular' member of society - to have a furnished apartment of his own, a running vehicle, $2500, and be in a position to continue improving his circumstances, either through going to school or starting his own business. How many young people would be willing to do that?

With Adam it was a study to find out if the American Dream is still alive, or if it has, in fact, been drowned out by the greedy and the lazy, but along the way he meets people who really don't have anything more than the clothes on their back. Some of these people really made a difference in his life. At first I was wondering how real this could really be because, even though Adam had restricted himself from using previous contacts or his education, it was still just an experiment. He wasn't really a down and out homeless person. He was just impersonating one. Still, it was interesting to read about his experiences as he moved into the homeless shelter, started looking for a job, and developed friendships with the other men in the shelter. Then came the night Adam had to spend out on the street because he couldn't make it back to the shelter. That night, as he slept under the stars, it really hit him that while this was a one night thing for him, for some people this really was an every day reality. It wasn't until later in the book that I realized that Adam wasn't planning to just go back to his old life at the end of his adventure. Sure, he was going back to his family and friends, and he could again use his education, but he was going to take what he gained through his adventure and build on that - literally prove that he could take that $25 and build a life.

Adam made some mistakes along the way and suffered some setbacks, but all along he kept a positive attitude and determination to meet his goals. Some parts of the book brought tears to my eyes - the night on the street, the letter to the bus driver - and other parts made me laugh out loud. What Adam had going for him was that sense of humor, that determination, and his willingness to do whatever it took to reach his goal. I believe he did find the American Dream, and a few other things in the process.

You can read the intro to the book, get more information about the author Adam Shephard, and find out where to get your own copy on the Scratch Beginnings site. You can also watch Adam's intro to the book on YouTube.

I'm going to pass this book on to my kids and suggest they read it. Maybe it'll help them realize that you get what you're willing to work for, and you can't just expect things to be handed to you. It doesn't work that way, and if you're just gonna sit back and whine, chances are you won't have anything. If you're willing to work for it, it's possible to have the life you want. You may even find out that what you thought you wanted isn't so important any more.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great book. I love that keeping a positive attitude and doing the best you can pays off.


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