This is a true tale that reveals, in real life situations, how powerful positive thinking and a sincere positive attitude can be.
Many years ago, in the later half of the 1960s, there lived a bright young man in his twenties who had descended from a successful, productive life with a very promising future to a homeless tramp living in doorways and cardboard boxes.
He selected doorways and boxes in lower Manhattan because that was the Financial District and the part of the world he had become most familiar with in his brief but fast moving career after graduating from college.
He had worked in this area of New York City and in fact had been working while attending school from age fifteen, so he was intimately familiar with work and the earning of money.
Somehow, in his alcohol soaked brain, he was able to connect the dots, even if his home was to be doorways and his needs meager, he would have to make money somehow.
After much analysis and a few visits to public restrooms where he could get a good look at his less than executive appearance, he brilliantly concluded that his new career path had to be something that did not require an interview… nor too intense of a background check, like name and address.
In a stroke of lucidity he hit on it…our tramp was about to move up in the world from tramp to panhandler and he knew just the corner to set up shop.
The corner of Broadway and Canal Street is one of the busiest traffic intersections in lower Manhattan. Broadway is the main artery from midtown. The Holland Tunnel between New Jersey and lower Manhattan brings over 50,000 vehicles onto Canal Street heading for Broadway…where they are stopped for up to 66 seconds for a traffic light.
50,000 people with coins and dollar bills that our ‘panhandler’ was going to target for handouts each morning.
But our panhandler knew he would need a gimmick or these busy working people would only throw garbage at him. He hadn’t come up with that gimmick but he figured it would pop up as he developed skills in his On-The-Job-Training at his new career.
This is where our entrepreneurial alcoholic panhandler would learn a lesson that would last him the rest of his life and one he would spread to all who would listen; The Power Of Positive Thinking.
The next morning our panhandler rose from his sleeping place ready to go meet his market… busy, impatient, frustrated and harried motorists trying to get to their destinations. They really didn’t welcome the filthy looking derelict tapping on their vehicle’s window and asking for a handout.
The first day at a new job is always stressful but as the end of the morning traffic rush hour drew to a close, he was coming apart. Badly needing a drink and he hadn’t garnered even a dime.
Auto windows were quickly rolled up if they were down, epithets were screamed at the poor fellow like “Get a job ya bum”, “You’re too young to be a bum, get a job or join the army”, or simply “You’d be better off dead and if you were, you wouldn’t be bothering me”.
And then it happened…that moment that changes the rest of your life!
When the next car rolled up to our less than successful beggar, the driver stopped, rolled down his window and from inside his immaculate luxury vehicle said, with an obvious anticipation of an opportunity for mockery, “How are you today?”
Something clicked inside our drunk’s alcohol sodden brain, maybe a break through the fog of his prior capabilities and his thought process went something like this:
~ Wiseguy, how do you think I am?
~ But that is what every bum on this corner would say.
~ I need to be different.
~ I need some money.
Instead he answered,
“Fantastic Sir, I’m Fantastic and how are you on this glorious morning?”
…and at that moment, when our panhandler looked at the face of his hoped for benefactor he knew he had his Gimmick.
The startled driver burst out laughing, said “Wow” took out his bill fold and handed the beggar a five dollar bill. He then rolled up his window and still laughing drove off.
Our homeless, derelict panhandler had, in that instant, completely grasped the power of thinking and living positively but most importantly the incalculable value of the projecting of positivity to all who one encounters.
We will leave our panhandler providing my readers with a few biographical notes. Shortly after the life altering awakening above, he found by practicing his positive approach to begging and controlling his consumption of alcohol to what we will call ‘maintenance level’, he moved out of the streets and into what were then called flop houses that cost a buck a night for a private cubicle.
He was a slow learner and it would be another eight years before he achieved solid AA based sobriety and was back on the ascendancy to many accomplishments. In 1982, eight years after his last drink, he married his wife, to whom he is still married and very much in love.
About thirty five years later our panhandler had evolved into a much sought after consultant concentrating on technology based solutions to complex process issues for multi-national organizations.
In 2002 he had completed the design stage of the complete re-engineering of the global operations of The United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund. This is the organization responsible for the administration of the pensions of hundreds of thousands of employees and retirees working or retired in 195 countries.
At that time he was one-third of the way into the six year project, designed, managed and implemented by the consulting firm founded and owned by he and his wife.
This was the point where he explained to the management and union delegates representing those employees and retirees how the obligations of the pension fund were to be fulfilled into the new millennium.
He gave a three-hour presentation to over 250 attendees in the United Kingdom room of the UN headquarters on First Ave in New York City, which was simulcast to the 104 organizations in 195 countries that were part of the pension fund.
On stepping down from the podium and after shaking hands with the most important of the attendees, like the Secretary General, he left to go home to his waiting wife.
On entering their apartment on East Forty-Sixth Street his wife asked, “So how did it go?”
His answer, “It’s really weird, what kept flashing into my head was panhandling on the corner of Broadway and Canal. I know it has been well over thirty-five years since those bad days, but how did I get here?”
His wife looked at him, smiled and said in her happiest voice, “I don’t know, but we are going to find out and package it for the world.”
It took over a year and a lot of research but his wife discovered there is an absolute commonality on how people who come back from a dark place make that journey. They think positively, make their ascendancy in baby steps and always seek a hook to move to the next rung on the ladder out of the darkest point in their lives. Whether it be a loved one passing, a crippling disease or wrecked relationship.
Look For The Hook A guide to finding Happiness, Purpose and Fulfillment
One Baby Step At A Time, a book on positive thinking, was the result of that research.
…and now, the rest of the story
The book was widely read and accepted. Shortly after publication, requests were made for the author to speak on the lessons to be learned from following the twenty Baby Steps. The author spoke with her husband at venues ranging from five star spas to the staffs and executives of corporations, all to raving reviews. But to the author and her husband the repeated presentations made to the staff and residents of one of the most prestigious trauma rehabilitation centers in the United States were the ones that proved the value of the contents of the book.
On first entering the auditorium of this remarkable institution both of the presenters were taken back… every attendee except the institution’s staff were in wheelchairs.
As the author proceeded through summations and discussions on the various chapters she came to Chapter 14 the baby step called I’m Fantastic!
Since the center had booked the author for a series of three appearances, when she reached Chapter 14 she informed the attendees in wheelchairs there would be a homework assignment at the end of that chapter.
At the conclusion of the session she told the audience, when they went out on excursions and anyone asked ‘How are you?’ they were to look up, smile and announce in a self assured voice, “I’m Fantastic!”
On the return visit to this center of hope the author was mobbed by those who had attended the prior session. They were anxious to report how their interaction with folk, after answering the query as to how they were, had been like nothing in their lives to date. People smiled, started talking to them and treated them with respect, cordiality and even friendliness. It was the first time they didn’t feel like they were in a wheelchair.
In one instance, where the resident of the center was a pretty teen aged girl, the clerk, a late middle aged woman, in a supermarket, came from behind the counter and hugged the youngster.
And that demonstrates the power of thinking and living positively but most importantly the incalculable value of the projecting of positivity to all who one encounters.
By this point some of you may have figured out, because I have so much knowledge of the story and am such a firm believer in the power of positivity, that, over fifty-three years ago, I was that panhandler.
G. Hugh Bodell is an Author, Freelance Writer and Blogger
Visit him and his books at: ghughbodell.com
© Copyright G. Hugh Bodell 2019