I’m from Brooklyn, New York. I grew up at a time when slap-boxing was poplar with urban youth. You had to slap-box 3 people just to leave the block you lived on. What the bigger kids didn’t know was that they were preparing younger guys like myself for hard life lessons. I’m not glorifying the activity, but you learned it was advantageous to have quick hands, or as a last resort, quick feet. The latter was the poorer choice as running away would only make the mob angry – I learned to stand and fight. This deliberate act would gain you some respect, which was just as good as a win. One day, my mother sent me to the store to buy her some pantyhose. On the way, I was only stopped once and ordered to ‘throw my hands’ up – I earned my pass. I got the pantyhose, I’m on the way back, and the bag is so light it blew in the wind. The neighborhood boys, curious about the contents of my sailing bag inquired about it. 

They didn’t believe that “nothing” was in the bag, and in no time at all the whole block knew what I was carrying. They all lined up to slap-box me, even the girls. That was a bad day, but most days were okay. In time, I learned that I had stamina. Over the years, this made up for my lack of technique and speed. I had become too much work for a fight let alone a win. And so, I would get a pass because I wasn’t easy. I lost a lot of these playful matches, but no one would call me a loser – I’m a fighter. Fighting to get back all the stuff I lost. Now, that I’m an adult, with bigger problems, I see now more than ever the importance of stamina for personal growth. I might not have all the answers for my problems, but I believe I can outlast them. 

I recently accepted the responsibility and honor of leading a program that will benefit a small section of Brooklynites. I’m no longer physically fighting people, but I am fighting the box that people put themselves into. Sure the “box” is comfortable, it’s familiar, and some of us will call it our own. But if we stay in the box, all life will have to offer us is what’s inside the box.