A Memorable Luncheon

Back in the 90s, I worked as a freelance computer consultant. I had a knack for solving problems, and my business was good. One of my clients was a non-profit charitable organization called Fulfillment Fund that helped disadvantaged kids get the education they needed to succeed. I believed in this mission, and did my best to provide support on the technical side.

Time passed, and the organization did so well that it was able to host a luncheon at a Beverly Hills hotel in March, 1992. The event drew a gathering of 1,300 people, including dignitaries such as First Lady Barbara Bush.

An African American student by the unusual name of Romulus took the stage. He spoke briefly about his life. I was shocked to learn that his mother was killed by his older half-­brother when he was only three. His father could not hold down a job and was forced to move often.

When his family arrived in Los Angeles without any money, his home was a 1970 Dodge. Things did not improve for him, even when he didn’t have to live out of a car. Once, he looked on as a drive-by shooting struck down a neighbor. He knew it could easily have been him.

“Conventional wisdom would tell you that someone like me would be dead or in jail by now and certainly not in college,” he told us. “But I was never much one for the conventional wisdom.”

Thanks to the Fulfillment Fund, Romulus was able to enroll in Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. He was now in a much better environment, where he could focus on his studies in safety — but he noted that life had a different kind of challenge for him in that setting.

“I’m really short, and not very athletic,” Romulus said with a grin, “but even so, people often ask me about basketball. They assume I must be good at it, and I must be in college on a sports scholarship.”

With all these challenges great or small, dangerous or otherwise, Romulus moved through life with forebearance and uncommon poise. His secret? He said that whenever things got too overwhelming, he would remind himself: “This, too, shall pass.”

I was beyond impressed. Romulus’ message was uplifting. He demonstrated courage in the face of adversity, and it enabled him to transcend his environment. He inspired us to do more with our lives, which compared to his were incredibly privileged.