Roy Hall Jr. | Driven Foundation Executive Director

The Most Common Lie We Tell Children

I was just six years old the first time I took something that didn’t belong to me. Yes, I stole something that was someone else’s property and it was awful! I can feel your judgment already. I see you; your thick Anthony Davis (2020 NBA Champion for the LA Lakers) eyebrows leaping aggressively toward your hairline. I see you. Look, I promise with a little more context and some additional detail, my account of this youthful experience will harmonize your initial thoughts with my concluding statements.

Have you ever taken something that didn’t belong to you? Never? Have you ever boosted a stick of gum from your friend’s car in their glove compartment? As a kid you never “mistakenly” ended up with an extra toy in your toy chest from your neighbor’s house? How about eating some of your child’s fries before you hand them off to the hungry monsters in the back seat? These are clearly minor infractions; a diluted fraction of the friendliest misdemeanor at best. Nevertheless, by definition, they’re all examples of taking what’s not yours.

For what it’s worth, I know for certain that I’m not the only one that’s allowed this character defect to parade in public. In 2018, there were an estimated 5,217,055 larceny-thefts nationwide! I’m assuming that those were much more egregious than a few “bag fries” from the Golden Arches.

Back to the story…when I was six, my mom found five dollars hidden in my coat pocket that obviously didn’t belong to me. She didn’t ask when I got the money. She didn’t demand to know why I had it. However, she did vehemently ask me where I got it from.

Defeated. I replied, “Ms. Carol’s tv stand.”

My mom tossed me in the back of her black 1984 Renault Alliance by one hand while simultaneously putting on my seat belt, her seat belt, finishing her raspberry iced tea, and backing out of the driveway! It felt like I was on an amusement park roller coaster. She was driving so fast! I later found out that she was only driving approximately seven miles over the speed limit. What can I say? At six it felt considerably faster than my usual morning drop-off!

We arrived at Ms. Carol’s house like an Amazon Prime order; faster than I expected. I tried my best to drag my feet to prolong the inevitable, but my mom nudged my walking pace and escorted me to the door. She seemed abnormally strong for a mom that day. It was the absolute worst 30 steps that I have ever taken. I felt like the late Michael Clark Duncan for his role as John Coffey in the Oscar nominated film, The Green Mile! It was terrible.

(I’m thankful for my mom though. If she hadn’t kept me accountable in that moment, I could have potentially been on my way to a life of crime.)

“Don’t be scared now,” my Mom said sternly. “You weren’t afraid to take that five dollars, so don’t be afraid to take responsibility.”

My mom always knew how to say things to make you feel 2-feet tall purposely, so that if you learned your lesson, you had an opportunity to grow.

I hesitantly knocked on the door. I could feel the beads of sweat sprinting down my face. There was a half-pound of pepperoni pizza in my stomach from school lunch that felt like it was about to detonate at any second; out of my mouth and on to Ms. Carol’s front door. And for some strange reason I all of a sudden felt like I had to go to the bathroom; Derek Jeter’s baseball number!


“Don’t be scared now,” my Mom said sternly. “You weren’t afraid to take that five dollars, so don’t be afraid to take responsibility.”


Ms. Carol answered the door and stepped outside with a facial expression that communicated a combination of disappointment and composure. You know, that look that teachers give you when you don’t turn in your assignment on time, or the look that someone gives you when you steal $5 from their television stand?

“Ms. Carol, I took $5 from your tv stand and I’m..”

“Pick your head up and look her in the eyes when you are speaking Roy,” my Mom interjected with a linebacker coach’s bark.

“Ms. Carol, Im sorry that I took your $5 from your tv stand,” I said with a little more confidence, but still feeling like I had to poop. “I’m also sorry that I lied about it earlier when you asked all the kids who took it.”

“I knew you had taken it. I just wanted to give you an opportunity to put it back before you went home,” Ms. Carol said with a slight smirk on her face. “The older kids told me it was you. I’m disappointed that you stole from me, but I accept your apology.”

“Thank you so much Ms. Carol,” I said with tears in my eyes. “It will never happen again.”

She gave me the biggest hug. She squeezed me like I was the apple and she needed apple juice to win a trip to Jamaica or something. Now that I think about it, maybe it was a “bear hug” and that was her way of roughing me up with limited resources and with my linebacker coach, excuse me,  my mom standing there. Either way, I was thankful.

On the way home, my mom finally asked why I took the money.

“I don’t know,” I said.

Typical response for a six year old defendant without an attorney. It was the only response that I could think of that I determined would keep me from getting into more trouble. So, I guess I lied again. That character defect again.

The truth. The unashamed, unprincipled truth is that I took that $5 so that I could buy some new pencils, a glue stick and some crayons from the school bookstore. Not what you thought? I know. I was tired of asking my teacher and classmates to borrow pencils and it frustrated me daily that I didn’t have crayons of my own at school.

My mom made sure that we had all of our school supplies at the beginning of the year but after the first month or so I needed some new things. Mom was raising my sister and me on her own and even at six I knew, well, I could sense that we weren’t in a position to get new things when we wanted them. New school supplies also meant no new school clothes. I wanted to help. I wanted to be the man of the house. I wanted to get it on my own without asking for help. I just went about it the wrong way.

This by no means excuses my youthful impulsiveness to take $5 from my babysitter, but hopefully it clarifies why I was willing to take the chance.

We needed help and that was the best solution that my budding mind could develop to do my part to help. I wasn’t experienced enough to have the forethought to mull over the potential negative consequences, but my heart was in the right place.

Adults often tell kids that they can be anything that they put their mind to, but the truth is that is a $5 lie. It’s cheap cliche chatter.

“You can be anything that you put your mind to.”

It’s difficult to put your mind on being successful if you don’t have a pencil and paper to write down the thoughts that are on your mind. It’s extremely challenging to put your mind on being great when you can’t find your notebook because you don’t have one. It’s an afterthought to put your mind on performing well on a test when you can’t find your backpack because you don’t own one.

I’m confident that the person that coined the cliche saying “You can be anything that you put your mind to” had the best intentions. It’s motivational. It offers direction. It’s layered with clingy, hugging hope. It’s direct and suffused with gritty candor. Nonetheless, it also features an unforeseen excuse for adults not to DO MORE to ensure a positive educational experience for young people.

This hackneyed phrase, puts 100% of the responsibility of being successful on the person hearing the message.

“I’m sorry. I can’t hear your message because my mind is on the fact that I carry my books in a plastic grocery bag and I haven’t had a shower in three days.”

Kids can’t advance until more adults adjust their priorities. No child should start the school year without supplies. No child should begin their academic journey without support. No child should set out for greatness without a guide. The only way “the cliche” holds true is if you have the tools ahead of time that you will need to get you through.


“I’m sorry. I can’t hear your message because my mind is on the fact that I carry my books in a plastic grocery bag and I haven’t had a shower in three days.”

Recently the Driven Foundation and Life Time® delivered 420 backpacks filled with school supplies to the homes of 350 Columbus City School students during the 4th Annual Backpack Giveback. More than 50 volunteers worked diligently to fill backpacks and then dropped them off to area students. It’s our responsibility to use our position to help reposition those in need. This pandemic won’t keep us from walking in purpose. Students also received a reusable grocery shopping bag filled with snacks and masks. Driven volunteers traveled a total of 195 miles to deliver supplies.

The Backpack Giveback did more for the volunteers delivering the supplies than it did the students receiving them. In those moments we’re promptly reminded that we all need each other. We were instantly injected with the hidden wisdom that paying it forward is the greatest way to spend our time, money, and energy. We acknowledge that our adult problems may still be present, but gifting a child with a backpack filled with supplies is a perfect present.

After COVID protocols lessen, are you willing to take the time to volunteer at a local school once a week for an hour? Let’s get creative. How about offering your expertise to students online as a special guest instructor for the day. Your appearance on a Zoom call or in Google Hangouts could make an immediate impact. Are you willing to take a break from investing $5.25 a day (there’s that $5 again) on a Venti White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino at Starbucks and use it for supplies for a student in need. Can you give up Starbucks so that they can be a star for the day.

Kids that don’t have basic necessities in school early on grow up to be high school students that don’t think school is necessary. 7,000 high school kids drop out each day. 26 every second. That is NOT mind over matter; the students don’t think that they matter. They haven’t mattered since elementary school, but even then it felt like they didn’t matter because they had to fight and scratch to come up with a backpack and a pencil. Kids shouldn’t have to worry about something as simple as basic school supplies necessary to help equip them for their futures. Kids shouldn’t feel like they have to literally fight for supplies, steal notebooks, or get bullied by other kids because they have something that the troublemaker doesn’t.

YOU can DO anything that you put your mind to!  That includes finding a way to consistently and creatively support youth education. Determine how much time and how much of your resources that you can give weekly to support education.


If you are wondering what you can do today to make a difference, I’ve eliminated the brainstorming process. Here are my 4-ways you can invest in youth education to positively impact their futures:


Option #1

Contact a local school and ask if you can anonymously support a student in need

Step 1:Take your entire family out to shop for items for that student

Step 2:Schedule a time to drop off gifts at the school and have a member of the

school staff school a staff contact the family to pick up

Step 3:Include a letter of encouragement. If this is going to be recurring support

for this family or student, let them know when they can pick up each month.

If you’re worried about whether or not this is a handout your MIND

is on the wrong thing.

Step 4:Express the need to your three closest friends and encourage them to either

support your efforts or adopt a student as well. In just three candid

conversations you could potentially be redirecting the educational

paths of three children.


Option #2

Host a neighborhood school supply collection


Option #3

Host a supply collection at your job and ask your co-workers and employer to partner


Option #4

Instead of hosting an “over the top” birthday or Christmas party, scale back and leverage a portion of that budget to purchase school supplies, clothing, or food for families in need


Option #5

Support an organization like the Driven Foundation that is already in the trenches supporting students throughout the year. You can donate to support here.


Roy Hall Jr. is the Executive Director of the Driven Foundation, Co-Host of the Always Ready Podcast,  a former Ohio State & NFL WR, and national keynote speaker. Roy can be reached at here.


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Backpack Giveback

Recently the Driven Foundation and Life Time® delivered 420 backpacks filled with school supplies to the homes of 350 Columbus City School students during the 4th Annual Backpack Giveback. More than 50 volunteers worked diligently to fill backpacks and then dropped them off to area students.