That is what happened to Sam Bracken as his first book, "My Orange Duffel Bag, A Journey to Radical Change," was being printed. Sam Bracken's name is familiar to many here in Cherokee County as a recent candidate for the county school board and for his involvement in the Etowah football program to support son, Beau, then on the eighth-grade team, and in other local sports programs. Georgia Tech's football fans will remember Sam as No. 67 on Tech's championship team of 1985, the team that played in the All American Bowl in Birmingham against my alma mater Michigan State University.
The successful author who wrote the above promo for Sam's book was world renowned Stephen R. Covey, author of "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and dozens of other successful motivational books.
Sam's first book is a book on how he, by personal determination and with the help of many, including God, who saw potential in Sam, overcame being told he was not wanted (a child of rape), the dredges of poverty, a drug-drenched home life, drug and motorcycle gangs, prostitution, and finally, told by his mother to leave - with her parting words "Sam, you will thank me some day for his." He did, but no child of God should ever have to go through what Sam went through during his childhood.
While "My Orange Duffel Bag, A Journey to Radical Change" is the story of how Sam overcame those obstacles that literally crush and defeat thousands, it was written for the benefit of those thousands in today's society who have been tossed out by their families and are now locked into the nation's foster care system. But more importantly it is the story of how Sam reached out to others, accepted their offers of help, and reached outward and upward, dream by dream, to where today he gives motivational speeches worldwide, always returning home to a loving family, wife, Kim, and four children.
After vividly describing his life until he was abandoned by his mother, at age 15, Sam then begins to express how he felt while laying on the track totally exhausted before realizing that if he was going to survive, he was going to have to change the direction of his life or forever be locked into the losers world from whence he came. Sam cleverly uses modern publishing technology to produce a beautiful and easily read motivational book.
Sam visited my wife, Joan, and me last week to preview his new book with us and to talk about what he perceives as his audience - those unwanted children, as he was, and those abandoned children that end up in foster care. He wanted to reach "the unreachable" and to help them understand that they can, with help, overcome their seemingly insurmountable obstacles and find "purpose, love, and peace of mind."
Sam, in researching for his book, quoted statistics that will make most shudder. He said that here in Georgia, 4 percent of the approximately 15,000 children in foster care opt-out of the system each year and that less than half of these opt-out children will graduate from high school and will become homeless within six months, and because they are not self-reliant, they end up in one of our state's "Monuments of Ignorance," our jails. What a waste of human life!
Two-thirds of his book is devoted to explaining how the seven proven principles of positive change - desire, awareness, meaning, choice, love, change and gratitude - helped him move from "victim to conqueror."
Sam expresses his gratitude for those who helped him along his journey, especially for Coach Bill Curry, who, after taking Sam into Tech's football program, never abandoned him and helped him adjust to Tech's many different challenges of being a new student athlete before finally being inducted into Tech's ANAK Society. Sam came into our (Joan and my) life in 1981 soon after he arrived at Tech. We invited him home for breakfast one Sunday then gave Sam a home away from Tech. He became in unofficial member of our family, and his children now call us their grandparents. A real tribute to our family!
Sam Bracken's "My Orange Duffel Bag, A Journey to Radical Change" is more than a book for foster children; it is a book that will benefit millions, at all levels of society. I know many who will benefit from Sam's book. It's a winner and can be reviewed and ordered at www.sambracken.com. Sam's book will make a great Christmas gift for today's struggling grandchildren.
Donald Conkey, a retired agricultural economist, lives in Woodstock.