I have and interesting drive into work each morning. As I travel out of my mostly middle-class suburb of Brookfield, Illinois, I go through many interesting places on my way to Lombard. Each morning, usually before the sun is up, I am driving past many historical places. I turn past one of the oldest Polish restaurants in the state. I go over a bridge in which I can see the entire Chicago skyline. If I am lucky and it is the right time of the year, I can even witness the sun rising over the skyline. It is beautiful.
As I turn past the suburb of Westchester on my way out of Cook County, things get somber. I edge through a piece of Hillside, Illinois. I travel between two massive cemeteries. On my left is Queen of Heaven Catholic Cemetery. On my right is Mt. Carmel Cemetery. I always think about the people buried there. Who were they? What did they do?
If you don’t know, a very famous gangster is buried in Mt. Carmel Cemetery.
That person is Al Capone. The Capone family burial site can be seen from the street. Every morning I look over to the moderate sized family marker as I drive by. I think about all the things I know about Capone. I think about the movies and the portrayals of the famous gangster as a villain and a hero. I have visited many places Capone frequented in his life. I have been to Cicero where he lived. I recently spoke in Hot Springs, Arkansas where I learned he visited often. I even took the family to Alcatraz this past summer where he did some time in prison.
I’m not here to judge Al Capone. I am here to learn from him.
Sparing all the details about the Capone story (you can learn that on your own) I found out he died when he was 47 years old. I am 47 years old right now. So I decided to actually stop and visit his grave on the way back from work. I don’t really know what made me stop. Perhaps it was that this is a place that many tourists are urged to check out. I mean, I drive by it every day, shouldn’t I be a tourist in my own state? Regardless of the reason, I found myself standing over the Capone family grave site.
I haven’t been to a cemetery since I paid respects to my great uncle about 8 or so years ago. It was a different feel here with Al Capone. His gravestone was covered with flowers, a couple of fall trinkets and a half smoked cigar. Obviously people were still visiting like I was and paying respects.
I quietly said hi to Al Capone.
In my mind, I was thinking the entire time about what I would be remembered for. I was thinking about how the man lying in the grave died at the same age as me. I was thinking about my goals and aspirations in life. It was sort of a mental clarity moment for me. For me, I want to help as many people learn to become confident and to chase their dreams. I want to help people find out how many great things they can do and learn in their life. This is what I live for. This is my why. This is why I teach both in the system and outside of it. I returned to my car with a clear mind.
I quietly said goodbye to Al Capone and thanked him for the reminder that we need to help others while we are here on this earth.
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