22 Dec Dr. Jonathan Cartu Reports – Some Christmas stories – Punch Newspapers
Today’s column is not about the birth of Jesus. It is not even like Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” in which the cold-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge ultimately learned the value of Christmas. Nor is it about Father Christmas, the First Noel, or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It is an essay about two real people whose life stories should add to our Christmas cheer.
Somewhere in Florida is a 30-year old man who began life at a refuse dump. Today, he owns a company that is valued at $62-million. And his focus is on innovations to facilitate good health and safety.
Freddie Figgers was only hours old when his mother placed him at a dumpster near Quincy, Florida. It was a much worse fate than being placed in a basket at the banks of the Nile.
Even in the comfort of a hospital, the moment of birth is a distressing time for babies. They have just been literally thrust into an alien environment. They have to learn to breathe for the first time. Their skin has to get used to the air. Their toes, nose, ears and eyes all have to cope with stimuli they never did before. Throw into that the harsh environment of a dumpster.
Baby Freddie could only wiggle and wine. And in doing so, he caught the attention of a passerby, who promptly called the police. They couldn’t locate the mother. So, they took the baby to a child welfare agency. From there, he was taken into a foster home and subsequently adopted.
Fast-forward to his years in elementary school. Until then, Freddie Figgers had no idea that his story was in anyway different from the norm. He had parents who took care of his needs and showered him with love. Alas, sometime during their elementary school years is when some kids begin to exhibit streaks of meanness. It was then that some of Figgers’ peers began to taunt him and call him a “dumpster baby.”
He had no clue what they meant until he asked his adoptive parents, Nathan and Betty Figgers. They told him the truth, and his world collapsed. He became withdrawn and inward-oriented. As it turned out, it may have been the best thing that happened to him.
Being withdrawn meant that he spent a lot of time tinkering with things.
Knowing this, his father bought him a broken Macintosh Classic from a thrift store for $25. It just happens to be the first computer I owned. I had had much experience with the Macintosh SE that preceded it, so I found the Classic easy to use. But I never would have so much as thought of fixing it myself had it broken down. But the 9-year Figgers did.
First, he pried it open to see what may have broken inside. When he identified the component, he disassembled his father’s old radio, retrieved the component from there, and managed to connect it to the Macintosh. And — voila! — the Macintosh started working. It is still working today, he said recently on the Tamron Hall TV talk show.
It wasn’t long before Figgers’ skills with electronics became known and he became sought-after for computer repairs. And so, he turned parts of his parents’ home into a shop for electronics repair and software development. Then the city of Quincy hired him for the same purpose. By age 15, Figgers had established his first company, Figgers Computers.
“When I was 17, I had 150 clients that needed websites and storage for their files,” Figgers told the Washington Post. “I just kept building from there…. I wouldn’t recommend my path to everyone. But it worked for me.”
Now 30, he owns Figgers Wireless, which was appraised in 2017 to be worth $62 million. It is probably worth quite a bit more now. Figgers Wireless makes and sells smartphones and data plans. But what especially motivates Figgers is developing software that helps people cope with everything from Alzheimer’s to diabetes.
He took an interest in Alzheimer’s when his aging father developed the condition and would wander away, as patients of the condition tend to do. So, he developed an app that is programmed into shoes to enable their being tracked. For diabetics, he developed an app that enables them to monitor their glucose levels and relay the information through Bluetooth.
Figgers relates his compassion for the sick and needy to the circumstances of his birth. “That could be me on the streets — I could have been homeless or dead if I hadn’t been found by the dumpster after I was born,” he told the Post.
Lately, news of former US President Jimmy Carter being admitted to the hospital has become routine. And each time I hear it, I expect the worst. Yet, a few days later, there is the 95-year-old on TV hammering nails into the walls of a home under construction.
Since Carter lost re-election in 1980, he has committed himself to charity work. Other than teaching Sunday school at a Baptist church in Plains, Georgia, he has channelled his energy especially into the work of Habitat for Humanity. It is an organisation that builds homes for disadvantaged people in return for minimal mortgage payment.
In a recent news story about Carter’s involvement in home construction, his left eye was visibly blackened from a fall. In fact, in the past few months, Carter has fallen a number of times and been admitted to the hospital for a hip injury, a broken pelvis, pressure in the brain, and, yes, blackened eye. Yet, he remains undeterred.
At 95, most charitable people can only donate money for their causes. Most people can’t even get off a chair. In fact, most people would be dead. Carter is not just alive, he is living and giving — of himself.
Carter’s net worth is reported to be $7 million. So, he can afford to — and he does—donate generously. But there must be something about being out there and doing things that gives him existentialist fulfillment.
He is my hero!!! And I wish him—and all— a Merry Christmas.
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