Have you had a day that simply humbled you to your core? In our business I am blessed to have many humbling days. And it always centers around people that are in my life that have a huge impact on me. Today was another one of THOSE days.
My wife and I, along with 3 friends, had lunch with a gentleman named Albert Mensah. Albert was raised in the African nation of Ghana and at the young age of 8 saw a movie where all the people had clothes, and food, and shoes. Young Albert asked his father if this place was real and was assured that it was real. The name of the place where all the people had food and shoes was the United States of America. Albert told his father that he wanted to go to the these United States and his desire was met with laughter.
Albert, undeterred, made and executed a plan to get to the United States. He was 11.
Alberts plan was to write letters to American universities and colleges. It was a very simple letter. He introduced himself and where he was from. He stated that he wanted to attend their school in the United States. And he asked for a scholarship. Sincerely, Albert Mensah.
That was it.
In the event I forgot to mention an important fact here it is again - Albert Mensah was 11 years old.
At 11 years old I was a fifth grader at Jim Darcy Elementary school in Helena, Montana. My teacher was Mrs. Weber. My principal was Mr. Wooley. I had many friends and my mom and dad always made sure I had food and shoes. My life was easy and similar to many other kids in the United States. Never had the thought crossed my mind that I wanted to be anywhere else. But I was never like Albert Mensah growing up in Ghana.
Albert began to execute his plan. 100 letters later he still was not on his way to the United States. Not even 200 or 300 letters later was young Albert preparing for a trip to the place he yearned for. But years later and nearly 900 letters Albert received word that a school in the United States was going to give him a scholarship. Finally, Albert's dream was coming together.
When Albert arrived in the United States he came alone. He had no family to assist him and he carried no luggage. When I asked Albert what he had with him upon his arrival his answer stunned me. "Me, my passport and $8.00", he answered. He was 17 years old.
With his $8.00 he made two purchases. The first was Kentucky Fried Chicken. He saw an ad for KFC that showed a bucket for $3.99 and when he realized he got the entire bucket he immediately jumped on it. Up to that point Albert's family only had chicken for Christmas. And with a family of 6 each person actually got very little chicken. He was excited to find out he could have the entire bucket all to himself. Now picture this young kid from Africa having Kentucky Fried Chicken for the first time. All the grease made him sick to his stomach and to this day Albert has never had KFC again. Albert's second purchase was Fruit of the Loom underwear he bought at JC Penney's. It was the first pair of underwear he'd ever owned.
Today Albert travels not only the United States but world wide sharing his story. He touches thousands of people each year and it all started with a young boy in Africa who wanted to go to that place where they had food and shoes. I watched him intently as we had lunch at a beautiful upscale restaurant on the water today. I watched him checking his iPhone and talking about texting and apps. And I could only think about one thing the entire time.
What if Albert Mensah had become discouraged and quit after writing 850 letters?
The world would be a different place. We wouldn't be having lunch and Albert wouldn't have traveled the globe making an impact in peoples lives. Albert looked at the five of us and in his Ghana accent said…people give up to easily on their dreams. Some get so close to reaching their goals but just before they do they quit.
It's tough to make excuses for my shortcomings when you are sitting with a man who executed a plan at age 11 to come to the United States for food and shoes and now makes his impact felt all across the planet. We shared with Albert about Ignite-U and our vision for the future for making positive impacts in peoples lives. And we shared there have been times we have been emotionally exhausted and wanted to call it quits and hang it up.
Albert looked at me and politely but firmly said, "You don't have the privilege to NOT do Ignite-U. You don't have the privilege to call it quits. You're making a difference and people are counting on you."
What humbled me to my core was as I listened to him all I could think is that God put a plan into action many years ago to have this 8 year old kid from Ghana tell me it wasn't okay to give up on my dreams. It took many years for him to get here and when he arrived today he was dressed in a nice suit and living in a grown up's body. It's easy to tell that I was the one counting on Albert Mensah to write 900 letters. The journey this young boy made was a personal one. It was a journey for Albert Mensah. And me.
And when you're ready, when you understand your own search for “food and shoes”, Albert Mensah's journey could be for you too.
Co-Founder of Ignite-U