Matt Houston gives his 3 reasons for volunteering
It's time to change the world!
Matt Houston gives his 3 reasons for volunteering
My Little, Da’Lon Reynolds, and I were on WFAA TV (Channel 8 in Dallas) for a news segment promoting Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS). BBBS is a great organization to join!
As I watch the race for the Dallas Independent School District Board of Trustee seat in District 9, I am enthralled (and disappointed) at the race between incumbent Bernadette Nuttal and her opponent, Damarcus Offord.
I’m drawn to this race in particular because Mr. Offord is taking a stance for what he believes in (something that I love to see in Young African American men). Damarcus is a man (not a boy) who wants to make an impact in his community and make a name for him. He has a goal, a mission, direction to do something positive in South Dallas and does not mind illuminating that to the mainstream; something that needs to be done to show that not all black men are negative contributors to society. This excites me because these are the precursors to a great leader, not just in his South Dallas community, but potentially in America.
His energy and enthusiasm, however, is over shattered by his naiveté. He lacks preparation in debates, knowledge in district matters (inside and out of District 9), and the ability to clearly articulate his ideas (an area where I feel WE failed him). It’s one thing to be a voice of an unheard population, but once you have the microphone, you need to be able to say something. That’s when prior proper studying, preparation, review, and counsel from mentors are very important.
I remember times in high school and college when my parents would either attend a performance or hear me speak at a function, my father (greatest critic) would say, “Matt, you need more seasoning.” This would frustrate me and irritate me until I realized of what he meant years later. He didn’t tell me to quit because I was no good, he just noticed I wasn’t at a point of proficiency and instructed me to increase my ceiling of learning so I can study more, refine, and improve on a product so it can be the best.
I like Damarcus Offord’s energy and enthusiasm to make an impact in his community. Those are characteristics that are needed to serve people. However, I feel that he needs more time to sharpen some skills in order to be a more effective leader. He needs people in his camp to push him academically as well as politically and civically. Like me after a performance in high school or college, Damarcus is doing the right things, he just needs to get better, and be willing to work on those skills. I’m willing to assist him with what he needs.
Recently, the state of education in America has been a hot topic (and rightfully so). With growing competition abroad, the reauthorization of education policy, and the state of the economy, people all over the country are panicking for solutions. Though there are large, policy-changing answers we can find to improve the system, there are also small, intangible solutions every day Americans can do in order to enhance the education of our young people.
For the past five years, I’ve worked in an organization that supports and supplements the instruction of the teacher. In doing so, I’ve been able to experience the problems faced by the teacher. I realize teachers have a lot of things they need to do in order to educate kids. With overcrowded classrooms, lack of supplies, and long processes, it’s very difficult for teachers to educate students alone. What my company is able to do is provide assistance, bringing in people to confirm everything the teacher just instructed. By doing this, students start making connections; they realize teachers are not instructing for their own health, and when the same thing is said from another person who has “swag” or they can relate to the student, then a connection is made. The education system is starting to improve.
I wonder, is there a connection with establishing a positive relationship with America’s future and the improvement of education? Is our society built on nourishing tomorrow or is it worried about what we can get today? We love to talk about our posterity and how we need to invest in the future today, but do we practice what we preach? It is evident that we are lacking in compassion for our youth (automatic rejection of their music, ignoring their viewpoint, disengagement of their actions). THIS IS STUPID ON OUR PART!!!!
One thing these young people have that we didn’t is the instant access to information. They can Google on their phone and broadcast whatever they find to the whole world in seconds. As adults, our responsibility is to:
Is this easy: no. The hardest stage in any process is implementation. It takes energy, effort, and patience. There are some stupid brats who don’t want to listen. We can’t save everyone. Our job is to make ourselves available so we can be in a position to teach/help someone who wants to improve. It takes a village to raise a child. Let’s not leave our children behind.
After days of thinking, I’ve decided to write about a group of people that have made the most impact of my life: mi familia (Thanks Cedric Lyons). In later blogs, I will write in more detail about my family, and will discuss my friends, mentors, and people I’ve encountered in life that have influenced my philosophy, my ideology, and have stretched my mind to levels I’ve never thought can imagine. I am a fortunate man, but I must give you a snap-shot about 4 people who I lived with most of my life: Thomas Lee Houston Sr. (Dad), Dorothy Faye McDowell Houston (Mom), Thomas Houston Jr. (Brother), and Natalie Lynn Houston Hunter (Sister).
Dad (My example)
Outside the Russell Glen Residence, Tom Houston was a very influential banker, businessman, and entrepreneur in the Dallas community. He was one of the first black corporate bankers in the city, developed businesses, and led the oldest and largest black chamber in the country. But inside the house, Dad was a relaxed, domino-playing, v-neck and boxer wearing patriarch who enjoyed family trips to Elgin for hot sausage and time with his friends. Honestly, I didn’t know the depth of the “legend” of Thomas L. Houston until after college when I was being acclimated to the “real world”. Initially, I didn’t understand why he hid that from me. I appreciate it now… He wanted me to be my own man. He wanted to make sure I wasn’t pressured in going into his shadow (whether it’s basking in his glory or making the same mistakes he made). He wanted to make sure I understand that your home life needs to be your safe haven from what you experience in the outside world. I respect that, and will use that as an example now in my professional life and when I start my own family. Thanks Pops.
Mom (The Nurturer)
Everywhere I go, I always hear good things about my mother; in fact, I don’t think she has ever made genuine enemies. She’s neither a gentle woman, nor one that’s quiet… just authentic. She has an honest, nurturing aura to her that, regardless what she says and how she says it (the good, bad, or ugly), you can’t despise or hate her. Mom has your best intentions at heart. It was evident when she helped me sell candy at her own rival high school to pay for my band uniform or when she’s tired but still helps my sister by taking care of her grandsons. She is smart, clever, witty, and beautiful. She’s diverse: one of the best cooks I’ve EVER met, loves to joke around, but at the same time would love to dress up and go to a formal function. She’s the total package, and I’m fortunate to have her as a guide on my quest for my wife.
Tommy (Mr. Persistent)
Tommy was fifteen years older than I (yes, I was my parent’s “blessing”). Honestly, I didn’t know him much, but the things I remember left lasting impressions. In my mind my father and brother had the same intensity (stubbornness), so when there was conflict, there was no resolution. My brother had a lot of my mom’s qualities: easy to talk to, compassionate, gentle (despite his 6’4’’ 350+pound frame). He loved people: he had a warm smile and cared for the welfare of people he was close to and even strangers. He was also VERY PERSISTENT… He sold everything. Pre-paid Legal, Kirby, ACN, Olive Leaf Oil Extract, property, baseball cards, Noni Juice. Every Multi-level marketing plan that was in existence, Tommy sold (or tried to sell). Lastly, I feel that Tommy was misunderstood in our family. He was the emotional being in the house. He was very relational, wanted to be appreciated, and wanted to always impart his wisdom (or his ideology) on us. We as Houstons typically don’t operate like that. In hindsight, I (we) could have done more to show we cared. I regret I didn’t spend the time I could have with him before he died. I love and miss him very much….
Nat (My Swag lifesaver)
My older sister is the reason why you see the Matt Houston brand today. After graduating college, she moved back home and changed my life. I was in middle school (an awkward time for me) and she taught me the importance having my belt match my shoes (outside of a suit). This changed my life. She ignited a fire in me that made me question what I used to wear, what I want to wear, and how I carry myself. She didn’t just give me fashion conscience, but she gave me confidence. I changed from a zero to a hero in the matter of months! (a little exaggeration). Seriously, Natalie showed me the importance of appearance and how people always observe how you carry yourself. Most importantly, Natalie taught me the importance of discipline. She is the most regimented person I know. Before there was surgery or lap band, she lost tons of pounds through hard work, healthy eating, and exercising. She’s amazing. She is also a phenomenal model as I’m on my search for my life mate. She is a professional, yet takes care of her husband and two very active sons. She’s a great package and I’m lucky to have her as my big sister.
These four people molded me into the man I am today. There is not a day when I don’t appreciate them. Thank you and I love you very much. I’m blessed to be your son and your brother.
At this month’s YP meeting (www.ulgdyp.org), we had Roderick Miles of Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) talk to the body about being a Big in the BBBS program. As I reflect on the 1st month of having a “little” through the program, I’m surprised at the progress of my little and I. It’s been a long time coming, about two years since someone introduced me to the program. It’s not surprisenly good, it’s not surprisenly bad, it’s just been a surprise. I’m surpised at how easy our interactions have been.
Before joining BBBS, I though I would have to “force” a relationship with Ja’Lon. I studied the materials my match specialist provided me (sort of), I made sure my schedule was clear (an act of congress in itself), even reviewed my notes from the online training (I kind of paid attention to) and I mentally prepared for any questions he and his family had for me (how to impress them with the “good” in me and how to deflect all of my vices).
When I got there, it wasn’t like that. Everything was thrown out of the window. I had no plan… So I just stuck with my instincts. As our match coordinator explained each of our roles, I noticed he didn’t care much about the rules; he was glad (or relieved) that he had a sensible Big Brother. He is a regular human being…
I learned that he had been waiting for a Big for about 2 years. He’s 14 year old, a Freshman in High School. He needed a man in his life during the harmonal transitions in middle school. His mother and grandmother are cool, but they don’t understand the different changes he’s going through or how puberty affects a man. I remember hating that time period in my life and made a vow to help as many people as possible though that difficult time. I failed him at that. I was too selfish… I should have stepped it up when someone approached me a couple of years ago…
Long story short, we have had a good time so far. I’m teaching him things, he’s tellin me I listen to old people music (duh, I’m sorry he was born after both 2-Pac and Biggie were killed). Most importantly, we both have someone who we can talk to and gain knowledge, and I am grateful.
Black Men: Please sign up to be a Big. Our boys need you. You don’t have to be a perfect man, we don’t need perfection. African American boys are in search of models: people they can emulate. If we rely on TV or society, they will not understand the true black man fully. Please help our poeple… Surprisenly, it’s not that bad…
This weekend, I paid a visit to my mom. She was keeping her grandsons, my nephews; for the night and I thought it would be a good time to catch up with her and to see these two vibrant, VERY ACTIVE, intelligent young men. As we were all watching Scooby-Do the Movie, I realized the importance of me being in their lives. After the movie, my mom and I bathed them and got them ready for bed. Before we turned the lights off, however, we showed them a picture collage of our family and friends. They ate it up! They love to see their mom and dad, photos of themselves, of my father and brother, and people they do and don’t recognize. When we stopped, they were sad. Trey and Logan wanted more, wanted to learn more about their family, wanted to see themselves one more time on the electric picture frame.
It was then I realized something. It was a strange feeling. They don’t need me to be their father as I thought initially… they have one in my brother-in-law. They don’t need me to support them financially, either. They just need me to be there; a black man who is driven, intelligent, who wants to succeed professionally, and love his family unconditionally. What’s funny is that my sister Natalie has been asking me (bugging) to be in their lives more. Why? I’m not a father… I don’t even know how to change a diaper. I see them enough… Whenever I’m on the phone with Nat I make sure you tell them I love them and I try to see them at every possible function, but I never fully understood why she thought I wasn’t spending enough time with them.
The fact is kids are not like adults. They need nurturing. They are very observant, and absorb everything in their environment. They don’t fully understand when their mom or dad is away because they need to work to pay the bills and support their lifestyle; they just know they don’t see them, and they are sad. They want a sense of order and community; two qualities that will help them excel as adults. Just as Marian Wright Edelman said in her book, “The Sea is So Wide and My Boat is So Small”, that children are our future. We need to make sure they are fed physically, socially, spiritually, and academically.
To Kenedi, Triniti, Trey, and Thomas Logan: I love you all and I will try my best to be the Uncle Matt you deserve, for I want you to succeed in life.
This Monday, I participated in a career day at a neighborhood middle school. There I spoke to a number of eight-graders about where I’m from, my education background, what I do now, but most importantly, my words of wisdom on how to be successful in life: Dream Big, Work Hard, and Give Back. As each 20-minute presentation progressed, I notice that my body language and tone to the students became increasing more intense: I’m turning into that old man who every kid makes fun of behind his back.
Initially, I was very energetic and light with my approach. This wasn’t my first career day and I love doing this and students are normally very receptive. However, this time was different. The students were still students; there was nothing different about career day program. There was a difference in me. For the first time, I was interacting with kids that directly affect me: these students were in my neighborhood. These kids directly affect the future of where I live. Knowing that, I started acting different.
All of a sudden I had a duty, not option, to excel. I can’t just entertain these students; I need to make sure I equip them with as much information in 15-20 minutes as possible so they can be successful in life!!! I need, through osmosis, tell them my life’s struggles, my mistakes, my successes, the struggles of Black America, the responsibility of next generation of leaders, what schools they need to go to, what organizations to join, what they need to do in order to be great people. The students were puzzled. “Why is Mr. Matt so intense?”
It was then that I understood the plight of the Grumpy Old Man. GOMs see something in us we don’t: they see our potential, and how we are not maximizing it. They see all of their mistakes and don’t want the younger generation to fall into the same traps. They are crying out to us, in their own intense, senile way.
How can we as a society successfully marriage the relationship between the”Young Bucks” and the GOMs? I have a theory: If there are more people advocating positive messages to the community, a small population won’t feel the need to overwhelm themselves with the burden to tell everyone what to do, minimizing stress and eliminating the “grumpiness” factor. We, as adults (both young and old), can do that by mentoring a young person, joining organizations (like Big Brothers/Big Sisters), and showing our young people what it means to be a positive contribution to society.
“If you continually give, you will continually have.”