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This book might make a difference in your life …

Every once in a while a book will come along and make a difference in someone’s life – a book not for everybody, but for those who are at the crossroads of life, in crisis or simply seeking the meaning of what we all experience as everyday life.

Did I learn anything from this book that I didn’t already know – the short answer is NO! My understanding of human nature was fairly well developed when I read this book and I had experienced a pretty full life up to this point. Therefore, the book probably will have more relevance and impact on someone younger than myself.

But what I did receive was a viewpoint, a perspective if you will, on the poor and the disadvantaged which reaffirmed the value of each human being and celebrated their internal spirit; even in the face of personal tragedy, often of their own making. Where the greatest gift is not so much financial freedom as achieving a sense of self and the inner peace that comes from being comfortable in your own skin. The knowledge that you are together enough to face life on its terms and still prosper without the overt assistance of a backstop. A sense of accomplishment at the end of each day.

Yes, those who are expecting to find fault with a book, any book, will be able to claim that the book is an artificial slice of life with the sole purpose of generating a book. These are the naysayers and those who will never get the book’s message as their cynicism, intellect and emotions seem to be in perpetual conflict.

The book’s premise is simple …

Can an ordinary guy with minimal assets; in this case a tarp, sleeping bag, an empty gym bag, the clothes on his back and $25.00 in cash be dropped off in a random location and not only survive the experience, but end the year living in a furnished  apartment (which could be shared  by a roommate), possess a working vehicle, have $2,500 in cash and be in a position to continue growing as a productive member of society?  They can not use the benefit of their education beyond saying that they had a high school diploma; although it would be difficult to disavow the advantages of advanced critical thinking and the cultural aspects of dealing with a wider group of individuals than that usually found in a high school environment. 

Implicit advantages …

The book’s author, Adam Shepard, acknowledges that he might have several implicit advantages relating to having his health, lacking a spouse or family needing support and his innate sense of adventure.

But let us look at a few factors which are not mentioned in the opening pages of the book. Shepard’s youth and optimism, as opposed to someone who has been beaten up by the system and who may have become both cynical and fearful of extending themselves in an all or nothing effort, cannot be underestimated. Although Shepard claims to have crossed cultural, social and economic boundaries, he did not cross any major geographic, racial or ethnic boundaries which may have marked him as an undesirable outsider. Of course, this is another lesson contained in the book; you work with what you are given.

However the most important advantage may be the internalized knowledge that he cannot fail – he still has the backstop of a family, friends and resources which could be tapped should he encounter serious problems. For example, should Shepard encounter a major accident or ill health which would not only be debilitating, but reset his quest back to square one:  losing everything, including his belongings, while he was processed by a healthcare system -- which is difficult enough to navigate when you are fully insured. The worst that can happen is that Shepard would return to his family and re-start his life in another direction.

On the other hand, it took incredible guts to complete this self-assigned task. Shepard’s personal security was far from being assured and one must realize that a single wrong word to the wrong person could have had fatal consequences.

This being said, let’s see where the journey takes Shepard and if he finds that the American system continues to work if one if willing to set aside fear of failure and put forth the requisite effort.

A good read …

The book is an unqualified good read, no heavy lifting required, and you do not have to suspend your belief that it happened exactly as recounted.

Along the way Shepard realizes the true worth of friendships, material goods, the simple pleasures of daily living and achieving some small bit of progress in the overall march to whatever it is that satisfies your inner self.

As a secondary benefit, it exposes the true nature of life in a homeless shelter and provides a new outlook which might just re-prioritize the way you think about everyday charities that are actually doing something useful for society.

And while there are celebrity-driven best sellers, such as the books put forth by people like Bill O’Reilly, which purport to point the way to successful living, I would much rather read a book of this nature and then pass it on to someone who may have a need to this type of real-life motivational tale.

In the beginning I was unsure of what I was about to read – a heroic tale of survival against the odds, a “do as I say” style cookbook for transcending your problems, a book full of certitude and recommendations.

I have no problem recommending this book to my readers and others with no reservations. While it did not change my life, it did provide me with a greater appreciation for what I have achieved and the plight of the almost invisible working poor that we all encounter as we are preoccupied with our own thoughts and business. This book is definitely a step on the road to both greater self-awareness and the awareness of your environment.

Did it answer the question?

In my opinion, the question was answered. Yes, you can achieve the American Dream. However, it is a somewhat of a trick question. It depends on what YOU BELIEVE IS the American dream. Could this book make you into a millionaire? Quite possibly given the mindset of the author and his ability to explain what is important in pursuing your dream. Can it make you into an Olympic or world-class athlete? Probably not, unless you have the physical attributes to support your goal. Which only goes to reinforce the author’s key premise: you need to fully exploit the abilities you have or can learn along the way.

Buy the book – it just might change your life!

-- steve

By the way, the sequel, if it is ever written, promises to be an even more interesting read as Adam Shepard and his brother combine households and efforts to take care of their cancer-stricken mother. Perhaps even providing a more enlightened path for mere mortals to deal with the healthcare system which appears to be  ruled by petty tyrants and people who are experiencing their own bad day.

Scratch Beginnings

Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream

by Adam W. Shepard

List Price: $19.95 Amazon Price: $13.57
This title will be released on October 14, 2008.

“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell

“Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt." (The people gladly believe what they wish to.) ~Julius Caesar

“Describing the problem is quite different from knowing the solution. Except in politics." ~ OCS