Recently, our family watched the film The Pursuit of Happyness together. The movie, starring Will Smith, is the story of Chris Gardner, who in 1981 was struggling to provide for his family. Although he was not making enough money to pay the bills selling bone density scanners, he decided to take an unpaid internship as a stockbroker with Dean Witter. Gardner’s girlfriend, and the mother of his 5-year old son, left him. He was evicted twice and forced to stay in homeless shelters or even lock himself and his son in a public bathroom to spend a night. He had to spend a night in jail as a result of unpaid parking tickets. He had his checking account nearly depleted by the IRS for failing to pay taxes. He faced countless other setbacks and challenges that were outside of his control and he had no guarantee that he would have a job with Dean Witter at the end of his internship. In fact, only one out of the 20 interns would be offered a job.
Chris Gardner is a prime example that in order to achieve your dreams you have to exhibit character. Here are some examples of his character from the movie:
Hard working: He found a way to gain 8 minutes a day by not hanging up the phone in between sales calls.
Accountable: He had to spend a night in jail for unpaid parking tickets. He had to accept the consequence and move on.
Confidence: He had the guts to go to an internship interview in jeans, an undershirt, and a jacket with paint all over himself after just getting out of jail and convince the leaders of the company he deserved a chance based on his character.
Motivated: He knew that he wanted a better life for his son and for himself and he wanted to do something for a career that would make him happy.
Energetic: He was constantly full of energy despite getting a lack of sleep and having many commitments. This energy was fueled by his vision and purpose.
Encouraging: After telling his son that he probably would not grow up to be a basketball player so don’t bother practicing too much, he realizes that he is doing exactly what people have done to him….trying to kill his dream. He then tells his son, “Don't ever let someone tell you you can't do something. Not even me. You got a dream? You got to protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they want to tell you you can’t do it. You want something, go get it. Period.”
Unselfish: He let his son have a piece of pizza while he ate nothing when he hardly had any money left.
Humble: He did not let the people at Dean Witter know the dire financial situation he was in because he did not want pity or a handout.
Trustworthy: He was always there for his son no matter what the circumstances were.
Caring: When they had to spend the night in a bathroom, he pretended that they traveled back in time and had to sleep in a cave. This put his son’s mind at ease.
But the two greatest character skills that Chris exhibited were resiliency and appreciation. Time after time obstacles were thrown his way and he continued to endure despite the pain and frustration he experienced. Although he did show signs of frustration, he never allowed himself to wallow in self-pity and let it affect him from taking action. And even during the roughest time when they had to stay in a homeless shelter, he showed appreciation for his internship, the roof over his head, and especially for his son. It was during this time that Chris’s son told him he was a good father.
The biggest lesson I learned from the movie is that no matter what happens to you or what your circumstances are you can appreciate the blessings in your life and love the important people in your life. Just because life has thrown you some curveballs and you have a reason to be angry and bitter, doesn’t mean you have to be. If Chris Gardner can appreciate his blessings during his rough times then you and I can do the same no matter what life throws at us.
At the end of the internship when he was offered a full-time position, one of the leaders at Dean Witter asked Chris, “Was it as easy as it looked?” Chris answered, “No it wasn’t.”
The truth is it would not have been possible without resiliency, appreciation, and the other character skills Chris exhibited.
And these are character skills that all of us can use in our own lives to rise above our circumstances and reveal the greatness we have within ourselves.
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