Tavis Smiley's Book, "Keeping the Faith"

Today I am a professor of psychology at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina. I was the first person in my family to graduate from college and the first person from my community to receive a Ph.D. My beautiful wife, Denise, and I have two children, Chanita, seventeen, and Devin, eight. My life has been so full of love and kindness that sometimes I get overwhelmed with emotion just thinking about it. I have been blessed to have two parents who loved me unconditionally and would do anything for me. They denied themselves many things and sacrificed so that I would have opportunities that they didn't--and in many ways, were not allowed to have.

My mother had a severe and incapacitating stroke in 1993. Early one Sunday morning, two years later, I received a call that my father was lying motionless in the den of my parents' home; the rescue workers there were trying to revive him. By the time I arrived, the emergency folks were transporting him to the ambulance.

I waited by my father's side as he struggled to regain consciousness. The stroke had caused bleeding in the lower brain structures, and in a short period he would be dead. The hospital staff had briefed me on his condition and told me that the chances of his survival were slim. The attending physician informed me that my father would be dead in a short while and asked me if I wanted to have him resuscitated if he expired. That night was the longest night of my life. His breathing was labored. With every breath he took, I was certain that it was his last.

As the afternoon turned to evening, all I could do was watch him and pray. I rubbed his face and looked in his eyes. I knew he recognized me, but he could not speak. This was the man who taught me the "love of the game." He was a Celtic fan because of Bill Russell, the Jones boys, Sam, and KC. He was a Dodger fan because of Jackie Robinson and Sandy Koufax. And so I became a Celtic and Dodger fan too. He did not appreciate football, but when I became a Cowboy fan, he became one as well. When I was a child, he would come into my room each morning and tell me the baseball scores. I remember his 6 a.m. voice: "You know, the Dodgers beat the Giants last night." And that's all he would say before going to work. But those words gave me comfort, and I immediately felt safe and secure. Somehow, those words told me that everything was right with the world. He taught me about manhood, hard work, and faith by the simple eloquence of his example.

The evening shift at the hospital came on duty at 6:00 p.m. The attending physician came by to see my father at around 7:00 p.m. As he was reviewing my father's chart, I noticed that he was wearing a class ring from North Carolina Central University. Since I had been a professor at NCCU since 1984, I thought it a possibility that I knew him. It turned out that he had been a Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) scholar while attending NCCU. I was the current director of the MARC program. I had never imagined that a student trained in our program would one day be taking care of my dying father.

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