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How Your Past Can Fuel Your Future

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Anyone—no matter who they are or where they come from—can improve their lives, conquer any hardship and develop a heart for serving others.


from our partner

written by

Tony March

My obsession with food only got worse as I entered my teen years, hit a growth spurt and began playing multiple sports in high school. Our weekly Winn-Dixie trip was gone, and the meal portions we got from home were hardly sufficient. I was living with my sister, Mary, and her husband at that point, and there wasn’t enough to go around for all twelve of us. I was so intensely hungry every single day.

Things came to a head one morning when I was walking to school. I carried my entire food supply for the day, a single sandwich…if you could call it that. It was actually two slices of bread with a thin layer of grape jelly spread so thin that it barely created a sheen on the bread’s surface. Not only did this sandwich have to suffice as my entire lunch, but it had to sustain me through a grueling after-school wrestling session that lasted for hours and burned a huge number of calories. Making it through the day fueled by this one, thin grape sandwich would have been difficult enough. The donut shop I had to pass on the way to school, though, put the whole thing over the top. 

I will never forget the experience for as long as I live. I can still see, hear and smell everything just as it was at 7:45 that morning in eleventh grade. My walk to school sent me past a Krispy Kreme donut shop. The owner was a clever guy; he made sure to vent the scent of the freshly baked donuts out to the street to draw in passersby. I have only ever had a Krispy Kreme twice in my life, but I can remember every detail of how they taste and smell. When I got to the corner of Madison and Volusia that morning, I walked right through a cloud of intoxicating donut heaven. I only thought I was hungry before.

Once the smell of those donuts hit me, my hunger went out of control. I kept telling myself to put it out of my mind, to ignore the hunger and save my sandwich for lunch. I knew it’d be next to impossible to get through the next twelve hours with nothing to eat and that my little sandwich—as thin and meager as it was—was all I had to get me through my afternoon classes and wrestling practice. I kept telling myself all these things, but it ultimately didn’t matter. I was so out of my mind with hunger that I tore into my lunch bag and devoured my little grape sandwich right there on the street.

When the sandwich was gone, barely having made a dent in my hunger, I broke down and cried. I cried harder than I’d ever cried before. It was a life-defining moment for me. I made a commitment right there on the street corner next to Krispy Kreme to change my life and my future. I said to myself, I will not live the rest of my life in poverty. No matter what it takes, I will get out of here and be a success. That’s a commitment I’ve looked back on often throughout my life. 

I somehow made it through the rest of the school day and wrestling practice, powered by nothing but sheer force of will. I’ve also kept the promise I made to myself that day. But I will never forget that feeling of hunger…or the helplessness that came with it.