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The smile of a man who has lost (almost) everything

By Craig Borlase | 14 July 2015 | Comments (1)

The amazing story of Mike - the man who lost everything and nothing.

“No, you don’t understand,” says Mike, his eyes alive with a contagious combination of confidence and joy. “I didn’t lose everything...”

I am being corrected by a man who has, in my mind at least, every right to feel as though life is falling apart. Not a month has passed since he was forced to leave his homeland. His two young children beside him, he carried what little he could and fled, leaving behind his wife, his wealth and his business.

Yet Mike refuses to tell his story as a tragedy.

He says he always knew that one day he would have to leave Zimbabwe - a country where being a white, successful business owner can mark you out for unwanted attention from powerful officials tainted by greed.

“First they came for the farmers,” says Mike. “But now they’ve taken all the land and they’re looking elsewhere. It was only a matter of time before they came to me.”

Less than two months ago they did just that. For three weeks officials sniffed around Mike’s business before eventually delivering their verdict; he was no longer the company’s owner and no longer welcome in the country.

Mike’s smile drops for just a moment as he describes the exit. “After we picked the children up from school we told them they had twenty minutes to pack just one bag before we left. That was all the time we could give them.” Twenty-four hours later he and his children landed in Heathrow.

With his wife able to stay back in Zimbabwe for a few weeks, trying to get some of their money and equipment out before she joins the family in England month, Mike is focused on starting again. New school, new home, new relationships in a new community, a new career to carve out… the list is long. “Does it feel overwhelming to be starting again with so little?” I ask.

The smile returns, brighter than at any point in our conversation as once again MIke gently corrects me. “I didn’t lose everything,” he says before pausing. “Do you know what I’d say to whoever’s now got my business, my cars and my boats? I’d say ‘have a ball. Enjoy yourself. They were mine for a while, but now they’re yours. I want you to have a good time with them. I really do.’”

There’s a lot of talk about generosity as the antidote to greed, isolation and consumerism. But Mike’s story is evidence of the fact that it can take down bigger prey than that.  Just look at what it can do to bitterness, pain and fear. Just imagine what else it could transform.

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July 15, 2015 6:05 PM
What an example! Brilliant!!!

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