On a concrete wall surrounding an empty lot at Willington Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, teal letters spell out the phrase, “The older ya get…the more ya regret!”
Percell Williams, a 55-year-old North Philadelphian, sat on a fold-up chair across the street, shaking his head in disagreement.
“I think about [my youth] a lot,” Williams said of the years he attended Benjamin Franklin High School on Broad and Spring Garden streets. “They were my youthful, rewarding years. [We] were moving a little bit further from where we were to where we were going.”
But as Williams grew older, he experienced more than “trying out for football, basketball, soccer and fencing.”
Spending three years in the National Guard, Williams also attended Cheyney College – now Cheney University – to major in social sciences and minor in urbanology.
Born on the 1700 block of Park Avenue, where he lived with his grandmother before moving to 17th and Berks streets, Williams made sure to get out of the city, traveling to Hawaii and Puerto Rico as well as the Virgin Islands, where he “met a pretty little girl” and stayed with her “for a minute.”
Williams emphasized it’s imperative for young people to venture outside of their comfort zones in order to grow.
“Some kids born in a particular setting get complacent,” he said. “They get stuck in their setting and never leave that setting and wind up dying in that setting. Forward mobility means progressing, moving, learning and stacking up all your experiences. That’s what helps you learn the process.”
But regardless of how many places people travel or what their ages, it all boils down to one thing: Life is a bank.
“If you don’t put nothing into life, you can’t get anything out of it,” Williams said, chuckling. “If you don’t put nothing in the bank, you can’t get nothing out of the bank either.”
Ashley Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.