By Tirzah McMillan
“Money is like love; it kills slowly and painfully the one who withholds it, and enlivens the other who turns it on his fellow man.” – Kahlil Gibran
Man No. 1: The Giver
Baby blue Ford Ranger, 1990 model, only a thousand bucks. He drives with character, but not with style. Hard-working, never quits, pays his insurance. He works in between classes and studies in between meals; slacking has never been an option.
Smart, driven, saving up for the future. He wants a modest home, a family of his own, his heart is most full when he gives. Father laid off, professional mother turned a sole caregiver, a little sister to look after.
Twenty years of life and formal education still isn’t enough these days to eventually pay all the bills. It takes guts. It takes ambition. It takes sweat and tears. But you will still never hear him complain. He is a humble man making change.
* * *
Man No. 2: The Receiver
Born and raised in Glastonbury, Conn., upper-middle class. White male, blue eyes, dirty blonde hair; a purebred. Taking up accounting and finance, he has connections in higher places, his dreams are on Wall Street.
Groomed from pee-wee soccer to elite level three-time state champion, from travel team to collegiate captain; a leader. He has a supportive family, loving girlfriend, and the students around campus know him by name.
Vice President of student affairs, on the Student Academic Advisory board, and Leadership Summit facilitator; he has a rapid growing list of internships. He invests in stocks and his restaurant job back at home keeps his bank account comfortable. His summers are spent each year in Long Island. This man has privilege and power; the sun always sets on his horizon.
* * *
Both men mirror their upbringing, but still only then, do their masks narrate what is just beyond the surface.
The Giver is realistic. He is thoughtful, dedicated, he spends his money with intent, and his time purposefully, surrounded by people who will uplift him, and together they will go far.
The Receiver is a dreamer. His white male privilege has given him much, but still he wants more. From the outside looking in, the opportunities given to him seem to have already been perfectly placed before him, but he knows the truth — you have to work for it to earn it.
Both honorable men, one wears blue jeans, a hoodie, and Asics sneakers to class; the other, a suit and tie. The societal hierarchy of the 21st century often decides who gains wealth and status, but in reality, no man can beat the likes of natural selection.
We must all adapt to survive.
Only one man can win.
* * *
Freddy Clark, born at Hartford Hospital and raised in the same house for 20 years in the affluent suburbs of Glastonbury, Conn., has always been recognized for the wealthy town in which he resides. With both parents working at Pratt and Whitney, a large aerospace manufacturing company, and only two children to send off to college, Clark’s childhood was a tame one — filled with joy and lacking in the adversity that comes with financial burdens.
Expected to succeed with ease, Clark excelled in school, and his father coached him at soccer until the love for the sport became his own. The support and warmth of love Clark grew up with was leading him down the straight and narrow path towards a bright future. But all too soon, the seams of his “perfect” life began ripping loose.
“Dad was laid off in 2008, and didn’t get re-hired until 2012,” said Clark. “He took a hit into his savings, his 401k, everything he’d been working towards,” Clark explained in a raspy voice due to his inflamed bronchioles. “[He] had to tap into other funds to stay head above water, but we’re still not there yet — with debt, credit cards, mortgage loans, car payments,” he shook his head and raised his eyebrows before looking up and letting out an exasperated sigh. “Fun stuff.”
While his father was in the process of getting re-hired, Clark’s mother took a job at a tennis club, in order to take care of her two kids at a daycare, but never returned to Pratt and Whitney.
“She continued to work there even after me and my sister were old enough to go to school on our own,” said Clark. “I’m guessing from a comfort standpoint.” This put a strain on the relationship of Clark’s parents, but they did their best to never reveal their struggles to their kids.
When Clark finally graduated from high school and began his first year of college, he kept with him the memories of his past, but could not escape being viewed as the stereotypical rich white kid from Glastonbury.
“The privileged white kids, especially coming to Springfield where kids are very diverse and income is usually not that high,” Clark took a deep sigh, and fidgeted with the tea bag from the hot Starbucks cup he was holding, before he went on. “My town being considered pretty wealthy, as well as white, you just get a lot of [crap] for it.”
Instead of feeding into the assumptions, Clark just worked even harder, recalling all he observed from watching his father grapple with adversity in the past.
“I learned from my dad, [that] even in the [worst] situations to put your head down and get it done.” Clark’s demeanor was determined and he continued without hesitation. “Do what you can to make the best of what you have, but still dream and have aspirations to have a better life, which is what he wants for me,” he said. “He’s busted his ass to provide for me and my sister, which I hope I can give back to him.”
Clark has worked tirelessly to remain humble, and change the stigma that not every person from Glastonbury comes from wealth, and not every white male feels entitled. Through it all, what has kept him grounded is his girlfriend of five years, Gianna Margaglione.
“She’s my support person,” he said with a smile. “Just to have that one person that you can rely on and drop everything makes a huge difference in mental health in whatever you have to go through.”
Margaglione and Clark both grew up in the same town, but they first met in eighth grade. Throughout high school they went to different schools, and even now, while Margaglione is at Sacred Heart University, the couple always make an effort to find their way back to one another. Clark sees Margaglione is his future and intends to marry her one day.
“I can see one of us traveling, one of us not traveling, one of us being home, one of us not being home just because that’s how our relationship works, which isn’t a bad thing,” said Clark. “But whatever happens will be an individual choice first, and then a relationship choice.”
Fortunately, Margaglione feels the same way about him, and will be the first to vouch for his character. “He is the kind of person who anyone would want as a friend. He is always there for anyone, regardless of how inconvenient it may be for him,” said Margaglione. “Freddy makes genuine friendships and is friends with people who make an impact on his life, and people that he can help impact their life as well,” she continued. “He has a bigger heart than anyone I know.”
Margaglione also acknowledged that people usually judge Clark based on where he comes from, but never give him enough credit for all that he is outside of those assumptions.
“Freddy is not, and never was, that stereotypical ‘rich white guy from Glastonbury’ and he never had to be,” Margaglione said genuinely. “Some of my best memories with Freddy never involved a fancy, expensive date; they were making a bonfire in my backyard on a cool fall night or picking up a game of tennis on a warm Saturday.”
It is without a doubt that Freddy Clark inspires, cares, loves. He is selfless and hardworking, compassionate and well-rounded, he is more than what meets the eye. Perhaps if we stop scrutinizing the exterior of a person and begin examining the internal makes of a man, we would finally be able to see.
Photo Courtesy of Freddy Clark