Tag Archives: doubt

Live your dreams

“You gotta be crazy!” That’s what Lee Dunham’s friends told him back in 1971 when he gave up a secure job as a police officer and invested his life savings in the notoriously risky restaurant business. This particular restaurant was more than just risky, it was downright dangerous. It would be the first McDonald’s franchise in the city of New York – smack in the middle of crime-ridden Harlem.

Lee had always had plans. When other kids were playing ball in the empty lots of Brooklyn, Lee was playing entrepreneur, collecting milk bottles and returning them to grocery stores for the deposits. He had his own shoeshine stand and worked delivering newspapers and groceries.

Early on, he promised his mother that one day she would never again have to wash other people’s clothes for a living. He was going to start his own business and support her. “Hush your mouth and do your homework,”she told him.

She knew that no member of the Dunham family had ever risen above the level oflaborer, let alone owned a business. “There’s no way you’re going to open your own business, ” his mother told him repeatedly.

Years passed, but Lee’s penchant for dreaming and planning did not. After high school, he joined the Air Force, where his goal of one day owning a family restaurant began to take shape. He enrolled in the Air Force food service school and became such an accomplished cook he was promoted to the officers’ dining hall.

When he left the Air Force, he worked for four years in several restaurants, including one in the famed Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. Lee longed to start his own restaurant but felt he lacked the business skills to be successful. He signed up for business school and took classes at night while he applied and was hired to be a police officer.

For fifteen years he worked full-time as a police officer. In his off-hours, he worked part-time as a carpenter and continued to attend business school. And he had started saving and preparing for his dream. By 1971, Lee had saved $42,000, and it was time for him to make his vision a reality.

Lee wanted to open an upscale restaurant in Brooklyn. With a business plan in hand, he set out to seek financing. The banks refused him. Unable to get funding to open an independent restaurant, lee turned to franchising and filled out numerous applications.

McDonald’s offered him a franchise, with one stipulation: Lee had to set up a McDonald’s in the inner-city, the first to be located there. McDonald’s wanted to find out if its type of fast-food restaurant could be successful in the inner city. It seemed that Lee might be the right person to operate that first restaurant.

To get the franchise, Lee would have to invest his life savings and borrow $150,000 more. Everything for which he’d worked and sacrificed all those years would be on the line – a very thin line if he believed his friends. Lee spent many sleepless nights before making his decision.

He decided this was it. The years of preparation he’d invested – the dreaming, planning, studying and saving now had a vehicle to make them a reality. He signed on the dotted line to operate the first inner-city McDonald’s in the United States.

The first few months were a disaster. Gang fights, gunfire, and other violent incidents plagued his restaurant and scared customers away. Inside, employees stole his food and cash, and his safe was broken into routinely. To make matters worse, Lee couldn’t get any help from McDonald’s headquarters; the company’s representatives were too afraid to venture into the ghetto. Lee was on his own.

Although he had been robbed of his merchandise, his profits, and his confidence, Lee was not going to be robbed of his dream. Lee fell back on what he had always believed in – preparation and planning.

Lee put together a strategy. First, he sent a strong message to the neighborhood thugs that McDonald’s wasn’t going to be their turf. To make his ultimatum stick, he needed to offer an alternative to crime and violence. In the eyes of those kids, Lee saw the same look of helplessness he had seen in his own family.

He knew that there was hope and opportunity in that neighborhood and he was going to prove it to the kids. He decided to serve more than meals to his community – he would serve dreams and solutions. He was going to make their obstacles their stepping stones.

Lee spoke openly with gang members, challenging them to rebuild their lives. Then he did what some might say was unthinkable: he hired gang members and put them to work. He tightened up his operation and conducted spot checks. He continually taught his employees the need for honesty and a good reputation if they were to succeed in life. Lee improved working conditions and once a week he offered his employees classes in customer service and management.

He encouraged them to develop personal and professional goals. He always stressed two things: his restaurant offered a way out of a dead-end life; and the faster and more efficiently the employees served the customers, the more lucrative that way would be.

In the community, Lee sponsored athletic teams and scholarships to get kids off the streets and into community centers and schools. The New York inner-city restaurant became a hub for ghetto kids to get a new start and dream new dreams. And in the process, it became McDonald’s most profitable franchise worldwide, earning more than $1.5 million a year.

Company representatives who wouldn’t set foot in Harlem months earlier now flocked to Lee’s doors, eager to learn how he did it. To Lee, the answer was simple: “Serve the customers, the employees, and the community-dreams, goals and solutions along with hamburgers.”

Today, Lee Dunham owns nine restaurants, employs 435 people, and serves thousands of meals every day. It’s been many years since his mother had to take in wash to pay the bills. More importantly, Lee paved the way for thousands of African-American entrepreneurs who are working to make their dreams a reality, helping their communities, and serving up hope.

All this was possible because a little boy understood the need to dream, to plan, and to prepare for the future. In doing so, he changed his life and the lives of thousands of others.

 Cynthia Kersey
 Excerpted/Adapted from Unstoppable
 Copyright 1988 by Cynthia Kersey, www.unstoppable.net 

Can you risk looking foolish?

It all started one afternoon, in a small village in Tanga, Tanzania, when Erasto Mpemba and his friends were making ice cream. After making the dairy mixture, they had to put it in the freezer. There was one freezer in the village, they had to take turns using it.

Like most kids, Mpemba did not like waiting. One day, Erasto put his hot milk in the freezer without waiting for it to cool down. Other kids were already cooling theirs, but he could not wait.

After a little while, Erasto checked his ice cream in the freezer. To his shock, it had already frozen. Faster than his friends who cooled mixture first.

“You have stolen my ice cream,” one kid accused him. Erasto’s denial could not quench the accusation. His friends now labeled him a thief.

Determined to clear his name, the following day Erasto set to prove hot milk freezes faster than cold milk. It was absurd. Erasto put containers of the same size in the freezer, one with hot milk and the other with cold. Lo and behold, the hot mixture froze faster.

Elated that he has made a scientific discovery, Erasto shared his observation with the only physics authority he knew, his high school teacher at Magamba Secondary School, Tanzania.

“You were confused, that cannot happen”.
After Erasto finished his Ordinary level, he went for Advanced level where he studied physics. Erasto was relentless, he asked his physics teacher why hot water froze faster. Again, the teacher called him a confused boy.

“Boy, you did not understand Newton’s law of cooling.”

In his Advanced Level class, Erasto learned the scientific process. Erasto repeated his experiment using standard scientific practices. Again, there was more ice in the initially hot water than cold.

“If the teacher says you are wrong, then you are wrong,” Erasto later said in an interview.

When critics were shouting the loudest, something happened that forever changed Erasto’s life. In the late 1960s, Dennis Osborne, a physicist, was invited for a talk at Erasto’s school, Mkhawa Secondary School. Do not ask the professor your stupid questions, the physics teacher told Erasto.

After Dennis Osborne’s speech, students were invited to ask questions. Unfortunately, Erasto had been gagged. But it was not for long. Erasto disobeyed his teacher and repeated his question to Dennis Osborne.

There was a riot in the class. Erasto’s classmates viewed his curiosity as anathema, a cancerous growth that had to be suppressed by all means. The teacher wrongly assumed Erasto had asked to embarrass Dr. Osborne.

Although Dr. Osborne promised to look at the problem, he did not believe it was possible. It was not logical. Decreasing temperature from 68°F to 32°F should be faster than decreasing from 212°F, Dr. Osborne thought. Since he had made a promise, he repeated the experiment in his lab.

After graduating from high school, Erasto and Dennis Osborne published a scientific paper. Erasto’s observation is now called Mpemba effect. To date, no one knows exactly what causes Mpemba effect.

In 2012, Royal Society of Chemistry invited scientists across the globe to write an essay on possible explanation of Mpemba effect. They were more than 22,000 entries. This is how important a young boy’s 1963 observation in a small village has become.

Although Mpemba effect is illogical, it is true. Erasto might never know why hot water freezes faster than cold water, but his curiosity inspires thousands of young people in Africa. Again, his name has been forever inscribed in the annals of physics. At times, success is asking dumb questions and watch other people look for the answer.

Are you willing to be foolish?

 

(Extract from: The chronicles of the kid next door blog)

Doubting this Sunday?

John 20.24-30

 

Here are some useless facts for you! This Sunday is often known in the church as Low Sunday. Why it’s called that isn’t exactly agreed upon. It might be because the passion, drama and wonder of Easter are over. Or it might come from a corruption of the first word of a Latin liturgy that is Laudes.

 

This Sunday also takes its name after the first few words of the Roman Catholic introit for today. That starts with the words ‘As if as newborn babes, alleluia’. In fact, the Latin version of the words ‘as if as’ was to give the moniker to a foundling in Victor Hugo’s’ epic about Notre Dame in Paris. Because on this Sunday, a baby is deposited in the Cathedral’s hallowed portals and is then named – of course – Quasimodo.

 

But one name I don’t think we can give to this Sunday is expectant Sunday. The reason is that the disciples weren’t waiting or expecting anything. As far as they were concerned – it was over. They with their friend Jesus bin Joseph had played the game and lost. The vision that they had was well and truly over. All hope and faith had died with the crucifixion of their leader. Albeit, it has to be said, there were some pretty rum stories running around.

 

Therefore, possibly the most telling name for this day comes from the eastern church which calls it Saint Thomas’ Day; Thomas being the famous doubter. Since he is the patron saint of all who have said -I’ll believe it when I see it. He is the symbol of faith chasing facts. Moreover, he typifies so many who are Quasimodo’s in their beliefs. For Hugo writes in his 1831 novel:

 

 

Archdeacon Claude Frollo, Quasimodo’s adoptive father, baptized his adopted child and called him Quasimodo; whether it was that he chose thereby to commemorate the day when he had found him, or that he meant to mark by that name how incomplete and imperfectly moulded the poor little creature was. Indeed, Quasimodo, could hardly be considered as anything more than an almost.

 

 

It is therefore constructive to see how Thomas passed from his ‘almost’ faith state into the apostle credited with founding the church in the east possibly as far as India.

 

For, a farmer had a dog that used to sit by the roadside waiting for vehicles to come around. As soon as one came, he would run down the road, barking and trying to overtake it. One day a neighbor asked the farmer “Do you think your dog is ever going to catch a car?” The farmer replied, “That is not what bothers me. What bothers me is what he would do if he ever caught one.”

 

Here then is a dog chasing an almost unachievable goal in entirely the wrong way. A dog that was yet to learn that life is hard by the yard, but by the inch, it’s an cinch

 

 

 

Well certainly, Thomas did not try to live the life of a fully formed faith by the yard. Instead he inched towards it and that was the cinch. Put simply – he took little steps. Since he started by being honest with his fellow disciples, being honest with God and above all being honest with himself. Because it is all too easy when doubts set in to camouflage them with a multitude of distracting issues. Yet, instead of doing that, Thomas genuinely faced what was truly challenging him.

 

Next he did not stop looking for answers. He didn’t turn his back on the astounding truth of Christ risen. He did not close his mind to the Lord’s presence. And the outcome was he received the gift of renewed faith in abundance.

 

Finally, he accepted all that faith demands. He uttered up – My Lord and my God. And with those watchwords he then went forth and changed the world.

 

If then, on this Low Sunday, we feel we are ‘almost’ in our faith, let us feel our way forward in the same way. Let us not chase impossible goals lodged in the peaks of belief’s Himalayas. Let us not try to bolster our ill-formed beliefs by leaping yards. Rather let us rekindle its flame in small and simple steps. And so, may we each be honest with what is causing our doubt. May we keep our eyes open for the appearance of the living Lord in our everyday. Then may we use what we have been given to perfect ourselves and the headlines around us.

 

James Moore tells of a cartoon, run a few years ago, showing a man about to be rescued after he had spent a long time ship-wrecked on a tiny deserted island. The seaman in charge of the rescue team stepped onto the beach and handed the man a stack of newspapers. “Compliments of the Captain,” the sailor said. “He would like you to glance at the headlines to see if you’d still like to be rescued!”

 

Well, sometimes the world’s and our personal headlines do indeed scare us. Sometimes we feel that hopelessness is winning. And so there are times when we have such doubts that Thomas is turned into the very model of blind faith.

 

Therefore, why not turn back to building faith – step wise? Why not turn your almost beliefs into the certainty by acknowledging that Christ is with us – here and now. And why not start by proclaiming without a shadow – My Lord and my God.

 

Since if we do these, we will give this Low Sunday its other name, which is renewal Sunday. Because, by these little paces, once more the resurrection is repeated, once more the resurrection reforms and once more the resurrection make us – perfectly expectant.