I lived in three states before I was five years old, but 1956 was a real watershed year for my family and me. Dad took a job with Martin Marietta in Orlando, Florida, we left the mid-west, and moved south that summer. For a kid who was about to start the first grade, it was quite the adventure.
Our subdivision, built on land that once grew oranges, developed into a large neighborhood in just a few short years. Indeed, by the time I reached the fifth grade, Orange County built a new elementary and junior high school less than a mile from my house, and I was able to walk to school.
But it wasn’t that way in the beginning. My older brother and I caught the bus when school started right after Labor Day, and attended the only school in the area, White Oak Elementary. Unlike the large, multi-story brick buildings that housed our schools in the past, White Oak was a one-story, two-room facility built with concrete block. Two teachers covered grades one through six.
My first grade class was combined with the second and third grades, and forty-five of us crowded into the one room. My older brother, a fourth grader, shared his room with fifth and sixth graders, and experienced a similar situation. Each of us shared textbooks with others, and took turns taking them home to complete our homework. Our teachers were amazing, and everything worked quite well.
On my first day of school, my classmates and I were told to draw a picture of something important to us. Each of us received a sheet of paper, and a cigar-box full of crayons was passed from one student to another. By the time the box reached me, only one was left, and it was broken.
I proudly shared my picture with my parents that night after dinner, and hoped they’d be pleased. You see, I had drawn a picture of our new home in Florida. After looking at my artwork, Dad paused a moment and said, “Son, our house isn’t red, the sky isn’t red, and the grass isn’t red. Why is everything in your picture red?” And my reply? “Dad, I only had one crayon, and it was red.”
Although my dad’s reaction disappointed me, it was in that moment that I resolved to always make the most of what I had, even if it was only one crayon. And that lesson served me well through both life and business, for one should never allow creativity to suffer or dreams to end just because the options one faces at the time are limited.
Each day may present us with new challenges, but each day also brings with it new opportunities. It’s up to each of us to recognize those opportunities and to creatively take advantage of them, even when we think we only have one crayon.