I’ve been thinking about the recession and its effect on our concept of abundance. I spend a lot of time talking about the importance of our spiritual and emotional life, which is the foundation of the balance and joy we are all seeking. But here’s the thing, most people spend 8 hours or more every day at work. What we do for a living, or better put, how we do what we do for a living is also fundamental for that joy. You may expect me to preach selling all of your belongings and becoming a monk or missionary somewhere. And some people are called to do just that, but many are also called to financial abundance. What I’m saying is that it is okay to desire these things, to dream big in EVERY area of your life. We talk about believing in abundance, but if we really believe it then that means that the career or job we dream of is also available to us.
We don’t have to pigeon hole our spirituality to our quiet times, your spirituality should have access to every area of your life. And if we’re spending that many hours of the day at our job then we have to seriously making sure that what we are doing matches the vision we have for our life. That doesn’t mean we should all try to be CEOs, ministers or super models. It’s not about the title, it’s about how you feel while you’re doing it, about the meanings you apply to it, about the way you interact with your routine. I felt motivated to talk about the theme of people who have done amazing things in their career because I was thinking about how this recession may cause us to play it safe in this area of our life. To dream smaller, to not take risks, to believe if you think outside the lines you are being irresponsible. But it is that very way of living that will keep us trapped. This is my personal opinion – we should behave as if there is no recession, we should ask ourselves what would we do if we believed the economic climate was there to support us. I’m not saying some won’t fail, though failure is highly relative. But not trying is a greater, more pervasive and endless type of failure. Below are some stories of people who overcame obstacles, who believed in something more than they doubted themselves. But the real root of my theme this week is just to remind people to not let the nightly news tell you what your capable of, to treat statistics like facts, that hard work is fun, and that how we spend most of our days is absolutely a part of our spiritual and emotional health.
The Story of Bill Porter
Bill Porter was born in 1932 and the delivery was difficult. The doctors used forceps and accidentally crushed a section of Bill’s brain. As a result, Bill developed Cerebral Palsy, a disease of the nervous system that affects his ability to talk, walk, and fully control his limbs. As he grew up everyone assumed he was mentally deficient and state agencies labeled him “unemployable.” Because his family believed him, he never considered his condition a “disability.” He decided to apply for a job as a door to door salesman at the Fuller Brush Company and was quickly turned down. The Watkins Company did the same but after Bill persisted they agreed but only if he took the least desirable territory, which was Portland, Oregon. It took Bill four tries before he mustered the courage to ring that first doorbell in 1959. The person who answered turned him down, and so did the next and the next and next. But Bill had developed strong survival skills. Every day he hauled his heavy bag with his useless right arm tucked behind him. Day after day covering 10 miles with aching joints he persisted. Twenty four years later, and millions of doors later, Bill Porter became the top salesman at the Watkins Company. By the time Bill was in his sixties of the 60 ,000 salesmen they had, Bill is only one who still went door to door. In 1996 the Watkins Company honored Bill with the Chairman’s Award for Dedication and Commitment, and the cheers and tears lasted 5 minutes. This award is now given rarely and only to those who demonstrate qualities similar to those of Bill Porter.
Paul Orfalea flunked second grade, and was eventually pulled out of school and put into special classes, and he continued to struggle. The world had a lot to learn about dyslexia at the time. He barely graduated from high school, he’s been fired from his job as a fountain boy for misreading orders and lasted one day before being fired pumping gas because his boss couldn’t read his handwriting on the charge slips. Getting a college degree entailed that he had to get a B average in community college to get accepted. He worked hard and with help from friends and family he got a B average and was accepted into the Univ. of Southern California. With a C average, he worked hard and because of his limitations he wasn’t able to be much help during his group projects. So he told the other students if they would write the paper he would be the group’s gopher and get them anything they needed. He ended up spending hours at the library making copies. He was fascinated by the copy machine and how simple it was, all you had to do was plug it in. Paul borrowed $5,000 from a bank and rented a former hamburger stand near the university and set up a small photocopy shop for students. Today Kinko’s has 850 locations around the world serving more than 200,000 customers a day.
Walt Disney was turned down by 52 banks. By the time that Disney World had its opening day, Walt Disney had passed away not long before and his brother was there to represent him. While talking with the press, a reporter said it was a bittersweet day since Walt never got to see it. No one had yet been brave enough to mention Walt’s death and feeling that this was disrespectful, he looked the man right in the eye and said “It’s obvious to me why you’re a reporter of other people’s dreams instead of a maker of one. Walt saw this..that’s why you’re seeing it today.” Remember that everything you see when you walk outside, someone first saw it in their mind.
Legson Kayira possessed five days worth of food, a Bible, the book The Pilgrim’s Progress, a small ax for protection, and a blanket. He decided to walk from his village across the wilderness of East Africa to Cairo where he would board a ship and come to America to go to college. It was 1958 and Legson was 17 years old. He had read in a book from missionaries about men like Abraham Lincoln and Booker T. Washington and wanted to be like them. Forget that he didn’t have a penny to his name or a way to pay for the ship fare, or that he had no idea what college he would attend or if he’d get accepted, or that Cairo was 3,000 miles away. After 5 days he was out of food and had made it 25 miles. He considered turning back but decided he would not stop until he reached America or died trying. Sometimes sleeping in the huts of strangers and often under the stars, he kept moving. Sometimes he found work and ate, and sometimes not. He fell gravely ill and strangers treated him with herbal medicines and gave him a place to rest. He kept reading his books. Fifteen months after he had begun, he made it to Kampala, the capital of Uganda, and he was stronger now and wiser. For six months he worked odd jobs and spent all his spare time in the library. He came across a picture of a college, it looked peaceful and stately and surrounded by mountains and blue sky. It was called Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon, Washington. He decided to write the dean a letter explaining his situation and ask for a scholarship. He decided to write as many other colleges as he needed but it wasn’t necessary. The dean at Skagit was so impressed, he offered him a scholarship and a job that would pay his room and board. But Legson still had no way of getting to America or a passport or visa. He wrote missionaries he’d met and they helped to push the passport through. But still he had no airfare. He continued his journey toward Cairo trusting that it would all work out. Little did he know that the students at Skagit College had heard of his story and together they pitched in to fly Legson to America. Legson spent the last of his savings to buy a pair of shoes so he wouldn’t walk into the halls of Skagit College barefoot for the first time. Legson is now a professor at Cambridge University in England and a widely respected author.
Legson once said “I learned that I was not, as most Africans believed, the victim of my circumstances but the master of them.”