Celebrating Mother’s Day: Lessons on Tenacity, Family, Faith, and Community

May 10, 2024

If you ask my mom to describe my leadership style, she would say that I’m a protector; it’s ingrained in my personality. Looking back at my nine-year career as a business owner, I would agree with her. My major accomplishments have always involved championing others and wanting to be a protector of people. 

An old adage says, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” A more modern saying declares, “I get it from my momma.” Whichever one resonates for you, they essentially mean the same thing. Simply put, I can trace a direct line from my protective spirit — a will to champion others — to my mother Vanessa Nora. When we think about protection, we may think of the physical kind. But spiritual, mental, and emotional protection are just as important as the physical kind. And I learned that life lesson, and so many more, by watching my mother.   

The lesson of embracing tenacity
My mom is the fifth of nine siblings raised by my grandmother, who was widowed when my mother was a young girl. Despite that loss, my grandmother ensured all of her children were well-balanced and successful adults. My mom and her siblings set high goals for themselves because that’s what my grandmother expected of them. She went on to finish high school, graduate from college, and then pursue a master’s degree in healthcare business administration. My mom always believed in the value of education and using it as a tool to better herself — despite many trials and challenges. 

When I was thinking about starting The Moriah Group (TMG), I thought about my mom’s strength and determination because it takes a lot for a woman — especially a single parent — to pursue a master’s degree, focus on growing and being better, and provide support for her family. I remember those times when she had night classes at campus from 7 to 10 p.m at Howard University. And my brother and I would sit in the back of the classroom with her. Those difficult years were top of mind when I considered starting TMG. Like my mom, I knew I would have to dig deep. If my mom could better herself despite raising young kids as a single mom, have the tenacity to finish a degree program, and complete her certifications to become a masterful healthcare business administrator, I certainly had the strength within myself to do the things that were necessary to build and sustain a business. 

The lesson of nourishing your family
My mother is also very family focused. Without fail, she shows up whenever a family member is in need. Cooking is her love language; she taught me how to make many of our cultural dishes. Her first job after college was as a home economics teacher, where she taught her students many cooking and sewing skills. So, whenever somebody is feeling down, the first thing she does is go into the kitchen to make them something.

I remember as a child, she would bake our favorite cakes from scratch for our birthdays because that is her expression of love. She’s the same way when people in the community are sick or when someone has lost a loved one. She’s always the first one to say, ”We’re going to prepare these beautiful dishes for them so that they have food to nourish themselves physically, while they are healing themselves spiritually and emotionally.”

The lesson of walking in faith
My mom worked as a hospital administrator for many years until her retirement about seven years ago. Like most people, she realized she had a lot of time on her hands as a retiree and wanted to do something to serve others. So, she trained to become a hospital chaplain. She visits hospitals and prays with patients and their family members, offering spiritual support in their time of illness. It’s the perfect role for my mother, who is a praying woman and has an unshakeable faith.

She taught me to believe in a higher power, that we don’t walk in this world alone, and that we all have a God-given purpose. When life gets hard and things seem insurmountable, our faith reminds us that we’re not alone. We know we’ll walk through the fire, but come out better on the other side.

The lesson of building community
Aside from faith, mom also taught me the importance of building community. As a business owner, I have to make decisions all the time that have implications for my staff and clients. And I have to communicate those decisions to people in a manner that demonstrates strong values and great integrity.

My purpose in the world is to contribute to my community in meaningful ways. It’s my life’s work and it’s what I’m called to do — whether I’m contributing to my family, to the larger community, or to our society. I am proud that, as TMG’s Founder & CEO, I get to transform the future for children and communities every single day. We work on so many issues that impact the lives of children, including poverty, homelessness, community health reform, youth development, and education reform. And all of that work facilitates opportunities for young people to become their best selves. 

Whether she knows it or not, I’ve been listening to and learning from the many lessons my mother has been sharing with me. Her aspiration for greatness, her desire to reach higher, and her determination to care for her family and community has molded me into the business owner I am today. And I’m so blessed that her tenacity and faith has protected and lifted me up all of my life.

Author: Rhonda Tsoi-A-Fatt, EdD

This blog is a continuation of Rhonda’s virtual conversation with myMBA (My Mother’s Best Advice). You can watch a clip from the interview on our YouTube channel.