Seated at a Business Class Lounge, waiting to catch my next flight, I couldn’t help but notice how a lady there just picked up every tray & bowl and emptied the contents into a bin. Tears just filled my eyes and so I walked upto her and asked. Are you seriously going to throw all that food away? She answered – Yes Ma’am, the food has hardly been touched and we aren’t allowed to keep it so unfortunately, it’s time to set up the next course for the day!!
I sat back in my seat and thought ‘What a weary time those years were – to have the desire and the need to live but not the ability.’
Charles Bukowski must have had me in mind when he penned these words in his book titled Ham on Rye. For they are words that describe the kind of childhood I endured. A childhood during which all that was guaranteed was neither a daily meal nor a place to sleep; but the air I breathed. And even that would come under constant threat from time to time.
The worst thing about it is that I – like millions of others who have and continue to endure the kind of difficult poverty-stricken life that my family and I went through – do not have much control over the circumstances we are born in.
Eli Khamarov put it best when he said:
‘Poverty is like punishment for a crime you didn’t commit.’
It’s a bad and unfortunate situation to find oneself in. And the worst thing about poverty is that it is really hard to escape its shackles.
Hold my hand
Speaking for myself, I can say that the kind of childhood I went through shaped the person I am today. I have been fortunate – through the help of many people along the way – to realise and be living proof that a person’s whole life cannot be determined by the situation in which they are born.
Of course, it’s an unfortunate card to wield such that it would be an understatement to say that life is tough being born and growing under such unfortunate circumstances. But the beauty of life is that no situation is permanent: and we can change our fortune. We may not do it singlehandedly – and I am yet to meet or hear of anyone who has – so if we are lucky we will meet good Samaritans along the way to lend a helping hand.
My life story is a winding tale and delving into it would take an entire book.
So allow me to compress it into a few words by saying that the first half of it was mostly characterised by destitution. But it’s a half that directly had a bearing on the second part of my life, and I’ll tell you why. Had I not gone through what I went through in my younger years, I am not so sure I would be doing what I do today.
Your Brother’s Keeper
It’s an amazing feeling just thinking about it: from growing up on the streets myself to helping kids going through the kind of deprived childhood that I went through by setting up a charity not just for them, but also other underprivileged members of society: the old, the disabled, women in need and so on…..
A kind of feeling that would be hard to describe in words other than just to say it brings sheer joy into my heart knowing that I can help transform someone’s life positively.
This was actually the motivation behind my establishing the various charities, all of which are married in a way with the National Speakers Academy because I’m all too aware that feeding fish to the needy in itself is not enough. We need to teach them how to catch fish as that is the most surefire way to ensure they make something of themselves and go on to change the world in their own small ways.
I have been blessed with an incredible team that helps me teach these disadvantaged members of society how to fish by ensuring they get a formal education. And not just that: we also make it a point of imparting upon them one of the most potent tools for success in the 21st century: public speaking skills.
As a multinational corporate and inspirational speaker, it is not lost on me that it is this one skill that helped unearth the potential that lay within me as an individual.
It is a skill, if perfected, that unlocks virtually every other aspect of a person’s life – and does so in a most positive way. In my opinion, this is one of the most powerful gifts anyone can ever offer you.
After all, when all is said and done, we are all human beings, and the least we could do is to share, to care and to give. For what good is it if you can’t help others?
Muhammad Yunus captured it best by writing these glorious words:
‘Once poverty is gone, we’ll need to build museums to display its horrors to future generations. They’ll wonder why poverty continued so long in human society – how a few people could live in luxury while billions dwelt in misery, deprivation and despair.’
Let’s be human – it is the greatest joy of all.