Be Grateful For What You’ve Got While You’ve Got It

My belief is that life is too short. I believe this because my father died suddenly when I was five years old. Suddenly, there was no other man in the house—I was the man. I washed dishes and I had responsibilities when I was young, like watching my little sister and also making sure no man was coming in the house who I didn’t approve of.

My father was tall, six foot four, and very athletic. He played basketball, football, and baseball. He was very buff and could bench press five hundred pounds. He was bald with brown eyes. Always a stylish dresser, he worked construction and also at a gym. He coached a basketball team. He had two children he loved, my sister and me.

I was five years old. One day my mom picked me up from George Washington Carver Elementary School and took me to get some ice cream. She told me the terrible news while I was sitting in the backseat. My father had just been shot on Third Street and Palou, and he didn’t make it. I was very angry, but I did not cry. I felt like a grown man when I was five. She took me to the movies, and then we went to get my sister from school and told her the news. My grandmother came over to the house that night and talked to my mother. I then went to sleep because I didn’t want to think about it.

A couple days later, the fact that my dad was gone kicked in, and then I started to remember things. I remembered how I used to wake up in the morning and how we would eat breakfast together. Then one day, all of a sudden, he wasn’t there to eat breakfast with me. Kids at school used to play around and make fun of each other by talking about “your mama” or “your dad.” Whenever kids made fun of my father, I went crazy and started fighting them. I remember now I fought one boy outside, but we were so young we didn’t even know how to fight. We grabbed each other and rolled on the ground. I got on top and swung, and then he got on top and hit me. We had gone behind a corner so the teachers couldn’t see us, but they heard kids yelling so they came and broke up the fight. While a teacher pulled me away, I was still trying to go after him, yelling, “Let me go.” The teacher grabbed me, got down on his knees, and told me that I had to calm down. He said he knew how I felt, but I couldn’t take it out on people like this. At the time, I was so frustrated that I wasn’t listening. After I calmed down a little, I got what he was saying.

My mom also tried to talk to me. One day, my mom had a talk with me, and she said I had to let things go. My father was gone and would never come back and I had to get over it. She said I had to stop making trouble and accept the fact that life was just too short. I was angry that he was never coming back because I used to write about how he was my motivation in life and how, when I make it all the way some day, he was going to get half of whatever I got. I wanted to get him whatever he needed. Even though my mom tried to talk to me, I still didn’t really understand what she meant about how short life is.

I moved to Atlanta, Georgia, when I was around six. Atlanta was hot, with too many bugs. After living in Georgia for two years, I moved back to San Francisco and met up with my godfather, the black side of the family. He took me under his wing like I was one of his sons and he became a father figure to me. My godfather is like the boss. I hung out with him and went around the city and started doing things again. He got me into football and I played for the Brown Bombers of Hunter’s Point. He’s my mom’s cousin. The sons of my godfather, I’Jah and U’Jah, are some of my best friends. They play basketball with me.

My godfather told me that life was short and I can’t be on the streets, smoking weed and messing with guns, or I’ll end up in jail or six feet under. I started looking around and realizing how many people were dying at a young age, how many kids my age and younger were losing their mom or their dad. There is enough sadness going around. This makes me think that I should stop getting in trouble and listen when somebody tells me something because they are most likely right.

Two years ago in middle school, my friend Buddha was going down the hill to fight another boy names Los. Los was mad because Buddha had taken his girl. Buddha was beating Los; he was on top of Los punching him. I had been watching the fight and decided that it should be over. I grabbed Buddha off of Los and said, “Bruh, it’s over with.” Buddha started to walk away but Los yelled out that he wanted to fight again. Buddha said, “No, I already won.” Los said, “All right, next time I see you alone, I’ma shoot you.” Walking back towards Los, taking off his backpack, Buddha said, “What did you say?” I grabbed Buddha and told him, “Forget about it bruh, life is too short.” Buddha knew what I meant and said, “All right.” We grabbed his stuff, walked down to the T train, and went to Jo Lee Basketball Gym. The reason I gave Buddha that advice is because he is like a brother to me. His dad takes time out of his day to work out with my friends and me. The reason he takes that time is because he lost a couple of friends and family to the streets and he doesn’t want to lose us.

I believe that life is too short, but I don’t know if other people have this same belief. Because of this belief, I act smarter about the things I do. I pay attention to the people I hang around and the decisions I make every day. I try to stay at school more rather than going straight home. I have an advantage over some other kids because I’m great at sports.

Life is too short to be doing dumb things, hanging out on the street, and wasting time when you could be in school getting an education and playing sports. You can get money from playing sports instead of trying to get money on the streets.

Because life is so short, you should get a job at an early age, or help your community out. Start a garden project. Clean up the community where you live. Put up money for the things you need to make your community better. I try to spend more time in the gym and at school. I try not to go home because if I am at home for a long time I would want to go outside and hang with the guys. I know they will end up doing the wrong things and I can get into trouble.

Because life is too short, don’t be ungrateful for your family. Your family might only be there for a little bit of time, so if they tell you something it’s for a good reason. My dad told me to always respect my sisters, even when they get on my nerves and irritate me. He said, “You wouldn’t want some random dude disrespecting them, so you should treat them right and make sure your friends treat them right.” I’m grateful that he gave me this advice. Without that, I would always joke around and talk about people.

Life is short and sweet, so make the most of it. I will.


Robert Lee III is fourteen and a four-sport athlete who proudly wears size thirteen shoes. A San Francisco native, Robert also lived in Georgia for about two years. He is
a loud, goofy person, but an excellent student.

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