By Helena Rodriguez: PNT Staff Writer
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That’s what our United States Constitution guarantees. However, the “happiness” is the tricky part because it’s an inalienable right that is not guaranteed. One must pursue it.
It’s this pursuit of happiness that brings a grown man to tears in the moving big-screen drama, “The Pursuit of Happyness,” a powerful and inspiring movie starring Will Smith, which I highly recommend to families. I grew misty-eyed during several movies that I watched this past year. But when I heard a grown man at the post office the other day talking about how “The Pursuit of Happyness” — currently the No. 2 movie in the U.S. — also brought him to tears, then I knew it wasn’t just me.
We’re all engaged in a real-life, constant pursuit of happiness. When things get desperate and we feel pushed beyond our limits, that’s when we are often filled with an inner strength we didn’t know we had.
The key word here is “pursuit” because happiness is not something that comes knocking on our doors. It’s not something that someone else can define for us. It’s something we each must seek and work for in our own ways.
For some people, life is a matter of survival. For those who dare to dream, like Chris Gardner, whose life this story is based on, it’s about pursuing one’s dreams against all odds.
“The Pursuit of Happyness” is a rags-to-riches story about Gardner, a struggling salesman and single father in the 1980s who found himself and his son homeless in the streets of San Francisco. Instead of taking a second job because he wants to do more than “just make ends meet,” Gardner does something crazy and accepts a six-month, unpaid internship at the prestigious Dean Witter Reynolds training program.
Note the word “unpaid.”
What’s even more crazy, though, is how he gets himself into the program. He has no connections and no college degree. He even shows up to his interview without a shirt. But his persistence lands him a chance to prove himself.
Although he hasn’t a penny to his name, Gardner puts on a suit and tie during the day, working hard to become the one intern among a pool of 20 interns who will be offered a real paying job in this top stockbroking firm. But what no one knows is that Gardner and his toddler son are spending their nights in church shelters and sometimes sleeping in the bathrooms of the Bay Area Rapid Transit station.
In the end, as you’ve probably guessed, Gardner is offered a job at Dean Witter Reynolds and becomes a top earner. Today, he is the owner and CEO of Christopher Gardner International Holdings with offices in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. He’s also a motivational speaker.
While the key to Gardner’s success is his hard work, strong will to succeed and his unconditional and incredible love for his son, there were also people along the way willing to take risks on him. That got me thinking about the power we all possess at one time or another to help others achieve their dreams, too, oftentimes, without being aware.
One of the cutest parts of the movie is when his son, Christopher Jr., tells Chris the old story about the drowning guy who prays to God for help. Stubbornly insistent that God himself will save him, the man declines aid from two ships. When he dies, he asks God, “Why didn’t you save me?” and God replies, “I sent two ships!”
In our own pursuits of happiness, we shouldn’t refuse help that comes our way, even when it comes in unexpected forms. How many times have we passed up aid from that ship because we’re waiting for a cruiseliner to appear over the horizon that never comes?