Do you sometimes feel no-one cares about you or that your life is meaningless? Recently I met a middle-aged man overwhelmed by those feelings.
This man passed by as I walked on the Hermosa Beach, CA strand and I said ‘hello’ to him. A moment later, he gently approached me and softly said, “Excuse me sir. I’ve been out here for three or four hours and I’ve had no-one to talk to. May I speak to you for a few minutes?” I said, “Yes” and invited him to walk with me.
In a sad voice, he told me his story. He’d come to Los Angeles from Chicago about a month earlier. He was 43 years old, his 20 year marriage had ended and his ex-wife had just remarried. Depressed, he quit his 20 year customer service job for a Chicago utility company and came here to make a new start.
He lived with his half-sister, a flight attendant, who often traveled, leaving him alone. In his loneliness and despair, he came to view his life as “hopeless.”
After listening to him for awhile, I asked if he had children and his voice perked up. He said, “Two sons,” and as he described what fine young men they were, his body language changed from a slumped posture to a positive stride and he began to beam with pride.
I asked if he had friends and he said, “Yes, but they’re all back in Chicago.” When I asked about his former job, he said he loved it, excelled at it and even voluntarily did public speaking to encourage others. Then with a sigh he said, “But who’d hire a 43 year old man?”
I pointed to some newspaper racks and reminded him the classifieds are filled with want ads, particularly for experienced sales oriented people.
Then I told him about a 65 year old man, who in the 1950’s, after a lifetime of hard work, was broke and living on social security, when he got mad and did something about it. He figured out what skill he had that people would pay him for.
Realizing it was making fried chicken, he drove his old Cadillac coast to coast, often living in his car, as he convinced restaurant owners to buy his cooking ingredients, cook chicken his way and pay him royalties.
Later, he started Kentucky Fried Chicken and became immensely successful. The man I was speaking with was amazed to learn that like him, Colonel Sanders had at one time been down and out.
I then asked him about his health and he said, “I’m in pretty good shape.” I asked if there were ‘other’ problems and catching my nuance he said, “I have no drug or alcohol problems.”
We walked in silence for a few moments and then a smile came over his face as he suddenly proclaimed, “I have faith!” He said it again slowly, as he absorbed the thought. He explained that he believed in God and in the past, his faith had carried him through troubled times. He seemed relieved and noticeably more relaxed.
So I said, “let’s summarize your ‘hopeless’ situation. You have family who loves you, you have friends who care for you, you have your health, you have a successful 20 year sales type career, and at 43, you’re still a young man. You also are a man of faith.” With a big smile, he agreed with everything I’d just said.
As a daily reminder of what we discovered, I asked him to write down these benefits and look at them each morning as he started his day. Then I shook the hand of a man ready to resolve his current problems and tackle the world.
In the next KazanToday, A Holocaust survivor who overcame the horrors of his youth and the financial struggle that later befell him to become a major success.