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How sassy Yvette Nicole Brown passes on her mom's inspiration over Twitter
I admit it: I’m a chronic tweeter.
I love Twitter, the social-networking site where people can post messages and say what’s on their minds in 140 characters or less. I love to talk, and where else can I talk to more than 20,000 friends all at the same time?
If you follow my Twitter feed—and it’s easy enough to sign up—you’ll find a lot of inspiring sayings in there with the chatter. My feeling is, if you’re going to have people following you, you should give them something worthwhile.
Life is tough. We need more people to lift us up and remind us, “Go for your dreams, you can do it.” I know how much positive words have meant to me through the years. My source for a lot of material, my mom, Francinia, is the most inspiring person I know. She’s said some unforgettable things.
If you’ve watched the NBC comedy Community, about a community-college study group of colorful misfits, then you’ve seen me play Shirley, the divorced mom. I’m grateful when people tell me they love Shirley because she’s a lot like my mom, a divorced single mother with rock-solid faith, determined to see her children succeed.
There are really two versions of my mom, mine and my brother’s. My brother, Paris, was a bit wilder than me growing up, so she was stern and strict with him while I got a lighter touch. I can hear her say in a no-nonsense voice, “Have you done your homework, Paris?” and then practically sing out, “Hello, pumpkin” to me.
My brother and I laugh at how different Mom was to each of us, but there was one constant: She absolutely without-a-doubt believed that with faith and hard work, good things would happen to us. And guess what? We believed it too! That’s something worth tweeting about.
My mom worked as a secretary for 35 years, mostly at G.E. Money was tight. We were never on public assistance, but there were times when we came home to our rented two-family house in East Cleveland to find the lights or the gas off.
One of the things I respect about Mom is that she didn’t hide the truth from us kids. When we wanted to get something like a cool new pair of tennis shoes, she would gather us around the kitchen table and say, “Okay, let’s take a look.” She’d lay out her pay stub and the bills for the month. The bills ate up practically every cent of what she earned. “Which one should we skip?” she asked. We gulped, “None of them.”
“Can we get the tennis shoes right now?” she asked.
“No, Mommy,” we said. It wasn’t a “No, Mommy” complaint but a “No, Mommy, we understand now.” We learned to do without because we were aware of the tough choices she had to make. She called us the three musketeers. She raised us to be responsible for each other and for ourselves.
Unlike other kids in the neighborhood, if we didn’t have a tree or any presents at Christmas it didn’t seem tragic because we knew what was important—love. I always knew Mom loved me and God loved me. I didn’t know for sure what my future held, but I knew deep inside that God had a plan for me beyond my circumstances. And it’s the same for everyone else. If I can remind folks of that with a tweet, it’s worth all 140 characters.
I got my first job when I was 15. I became a member of what they called the hospitality team at Randall Park Mall in Ohio. We wore blue skirts, white shirts and little ties. We opened doors for customers and asked, “What can I do to help you today?” We carried bags, gave directions or walked people to their destinations, like roving concierges. Bringing home my first paycheck was a moment of pride because I knew I was contributing to the three musketeers.