Homeless to CEO

Today’s story is about the founder and CEO of Christopher Gardner international holdings, Chris Gardner. A lot of people know his life story from the Hollywood blockbuster – The Pursuit of Happyness but have no idea who he is.

Growing up, Chris had a difficult and troubled childhood. At a young age, his parents separated and his mother remarried. His stepfather made life difficult for him and his family. He physically abused his mum and siblings constantly and he was always on the wrong side of the law. Because of this, Chris mother was falsely convicted twice. Having no one to care for them, him and his siblings had to move into a foster home at 8 years old. Chris struggled.

As an adult, he got married but afterwards the married failed. He became a medical equipment salesman but failed miserably at it, his girlfriend at the time deserted him because of the state of his finances. He became homeless with his son and had to spend nights in different motels, parks, airports and one time, a public toilet. Like it showed in The Pursuit of Happyness, Chris toiled endlessly at a brokerage firm in the daytime and stood in long queues at homeless shelters, so him and his son could have a roof over their heads.

Chris Garder

Finally, in 1982, Chris passed the licensing exam and became a full-time employee of Dean Witter, a brokerage firm. 5 years later in 1987, he established his own brokerage firm, Gardner Rich & Co. where he owns 75% of the stock. His firm today has offices in New York, San Francisco and Chicago. Chris story is one of Perseverance. It teaches us that giving up should never be an option.

Don’t quit. Never give up trying to build the world you can see, even if others can’t see it. Listen to your drum and your drum only. It’s the one that makes the sweetest sound.” – Simon Sinek

Angel of Burundi

Today’s story is about beautiful Burundi woman Marguerite Barankitse.

She has been compared to great people like Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa. She is fondly called “Angel of Burundi” back home.

Marguerite’s journey began back in 1993 when tensions had grown between two major ethnic groups called the Hutus and the Tutsis. During this tension Maggie, a Tutsi, fled and sought safety at the house of her archbishop, she tried protecting her seven children as well as 72 other friends and their children who were all Hutu’s. unfortunately, the building they hid ta were invaded by Tutsi rebels.

Maggie was tied to a chair and stripped naked, they didn’t kill her because she was a Tutsi but right there they murdered all 72 Hutus. After the murder, the head of her best friend was thrown on her lap. Marguerite somehow succeeded in paying a small ransom to save the lives of 25 of her friend’s children who alive, along with seven children, four Hutu and three Tutsi who she was already treating as her own, she sought out a means for them all to survive. The number of children in her care continued to increase and soon she has a total of 200 orphaned children to care for. She resorted to begging around for food and land for they all to survive. After a while she was able to successfully begin a home for kids called the Maison Shalom known as the House of Peace in Ruyigi, a province in Burundi.

Marguertite Batankitse with the Children of Maison Shalom

Now Maison Shalom has grown from just one home to a large compound with over three thousand homes including schools, hospitals, farms and even a bank. It has provided a loving and safe home to over twenty thousand children.

Maggie story should inspire us to want to help in whatever way we can.

“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching and lifting people up” – John Holmes

You Can Too

Today’s story is about Athletic Coordinator Matt Gage.

One hot afternoon in a small town in Iowa, 9-year-old Matt went swimming with his cousin, as he surfaced he noticed that as he swung his right hand his left hand didn’t follow, suddenly he realized that the left side of his entire body was unable to move, thankfully his cousin pulled him out of the water and prevented him from drowning. Matt passed out right after and was rushed to a nearby hospital.

It was later established that Matt had suffered a stroke and the chances of him ever gaining consciousness were slim, and even if he did, he would live the rest of his life as a vegetable. As a child, he said his dream was to become the next Michael Jordan. Matt’s dad urged him to try to move his leg but he always said, “I can’t”. One day his dad said “Matt, what did “can’t” ever do for you? If you say you can’t do it you’re not gonna do it, if you don’t start believing in yourself and believing something can happen, that you can get better, then you’re gonna be in a wheelchair”

Matt said that was the was the day he decided to not let the stroke define him.

Two weeks after his surgery, he lifted his left leg, days later, he moved his left arm as well. Matt was walking before he left the hospital. He continued playing basketball through junior high and high school.

Matt says he feels that God used the stroke in many ways for him to not only impact others for him (God), but hopefully to give some of those people hope too.  

Whatever your story is, fight through it.

No matter what your story is, never let it stop you.

Read more about Matt’s story here  

The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other from a strong won’t. – Henry Ward Beecher