He said if it had not been for a handful of people, he would have been dead, insane, or in prison at this point in his life.
“I didn’t know that my family wasn’t normal,” he said. “I was just used to terrible circumstances. I don’t blame my family. They didn’t know we could do better.”
He said he will be ever grateful to his mother for giving him life and for teaching him the importance of hard work.
“My mom always had two or three jobs,” he said. “But we were not a normal family.”
He challenged the students to do three things: understand their past, find humor in their lives, and be resilient and tenacious.
Then he told a story about one day when he was 9 years old.
“Me and my friend were playing war with our army men, a lighter, and a bunch of fireworks,” Bracken said. “We were melting our army men and didn’t realize we were on a fire ant hill. We put about three M-80s (fireworks) together and lit them.”
He said there was a pretty big explosion and the ant hill was disturbed. There were hundreds of fire ants covering his friend from head to toe.
“I was a pretty big kid,” he said. “So I carried him like he was my bride into the house and dropped him in the hallway. I went and banged on my mother’s door — she was sleeping.”
He said she came running out of the room and immediately made a paste with baking soda and began tending to the ant bites.
“It wasn’t until my friend said, ‘Sam your mom is naked,’ that this was an unusual interaction,” Bracken said. “I didn’t know it wasn’t normal for your mother to be walking around naked. She didn’t think to put clothes on to help my friend. You see, she did the best she could. And I did tell that story when I preached the sermon at her funeral.”