Priceless life lessons from a trailer park


Poverty is a beast!  It will exert total control over every aspect of family life if left unchecked. The grip of poverty is a downward spiral that can affect families for many generations. 

Just like your parents passed down their genetic traits at birth, the tragic sense of powerlessness that accompanies a lifetime in poverty can also be handed down from parents to their children.

These were the family circumstances that Crystal Harrell was born into.  

She accomplished what few others can when she broke the generations-long bondage of poverty and her family’s dependence on government support.  Her compelling story gives hope to anyone trying to break the generational cycle of poverty in their own family. She is living proof that hard work and education pay dividends for generations to come.

In the last episode of UNBEATABLE, “From Government Housing to the Ivy League”, I listened to Crystal’s incredible journey. She described how a simple change in her outlook was the catalyst for believing she had a bright future and seeing her dreams come true.

I hated the living conditions of my own upbringing.  I spent most of my childhood noticing how different my circumstances were from the other children around me.  As Crystal detailed her journey out of childhood poverty, it reminded me of a few lessons that I learned growing up in some of the poorest neighborhoods in my city.  

It was only looking back as an adult that I became mature enough to evaluate my circumstances and realize that I learned a few lessons along the way. I have now come to realize that I learned some priceless life lessons while living in trailer parks and growing up in the ghetto.  

Here are 5 lessons that I wouldn’t trade for the world from a challenging childhood:

Sense of family

I grew up in a huge family! -not blood relations, but bonds that became even stronger than most families I know.  Family is a powerful word in trailer parks. Most children live in single-parent homes. Even when there are two parents in the home, both parents usually work long hours to pay the bills.

This neighborhood dynamic causes children to develop strong ties with people next door.  For most children in the poorest neighborhoods, these ties become stronger than family bonds and often last for a lifetime.  My neighbors became a huge family to me growing up below the poverty line. 

Strong accountability

Everyone knows everyone else in the trailer park. Therefore, a child can’t get away with shenanigans for very long.  Because poor neighborhoods act like family, your mama is going to hear about your behavior as soon as she gets home from work. There are always a lot of eyes watching your behavior in a trailer park. This blanket of accountability that forced me to act right in pubic helped me develop good manners that would last for the rest of my life. 

Shun materialism

Let’s face it; everyone has more than you do when you grow up in a trailer park. Therefore, you’re going to go out of your mind if you are an intensely materialistic child.  Most of my friends wanted the same toys and games that every other kid in school wanted. But we all got over hoping for material possessions to satisfy our deepest desires really fast. When you don’t know if there will be food in the cabinets tomorrow or basic winter clothing to wear, it will quickly take away the selfish desire for the latest doll or toy train.   

Savor the outdoors

Think about a trailer like a tiny home.  It’s very cramped living conditions for a family of almost any size, and you get on each other’s nerves while living in these crowded conditions. Therefore, every child in the trailer park has heard a parent say, “Go outside and play,” repeatedly while growing up. Spending all that time outdoors created a love of nature for me. I didn’t realize how much I appreciated the endless hours outside until I was an adult. Today, nature continues to be an endless playground for me.

Sturdy faith

Be careful where you place your faith!  I learned this lesson over and over again as a child.  You’re going to get your hopes crushed growing up in trailer park poverty.  At first, this devastated me.

However, an unanticipated benefit of being let down repeatedly is learning where to place your faith. Being let down taught me a priceless lesson about where to place my faith.  I’m convinced it was my austere upbringing that caused me to drop to my knees and place my faith in Jesus Christ at 13 years old.

I hope you’ll be as inspired by Crystal Harrell’s interview as I was.  She learned a lesson that all of us can benefit from…. Your outlook on life might be the difference between being a victim of challenging circumstances and being a victor over them.

Listen to my whole interview with Crystal HERE.

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