How Starbucks Saved One Man's Life

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NEW YORK CITY -- You've heard of people going from rags-to-riches. Well, this is the story of the man who went from riches-to-rags. 

Michael Gates Gill was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. And when he lost it all, he found true happiness -- with God's help.

Sweeping trash at Starbucks is the last thing the once affluent Mike Gill ever dreamed he'd be doing. But don't ask him to give it up.

"My story is irrefutable evidence that sometimes loss can bring a new found peace and happiness," Mike said. "Because I'm happier today talking to you right this morning as a barista at Starbucks than I ever was in the big six-figure job with the corner office and a big mansion."

The son of famed New Yorker writer Brendan Gill, Mike partied with A-list celebrities, attended Yale, and worked for decades at the world's largest ad agency, handling accounts like Ford and Christian Dior.

Then it was gone.

"I'd been fired from my job, I lost my big house, I was divorced, I was virtually broke, and I'd just been diagnosed with a brain tumor," Mike said.

When Michael hit rock bottom, he found himself brooding over a cup of joe. Well, Starbucks happened to be hiring that day, and when asked if he wanted a job, for some reason, he said yes.

And from that point on, after a lifetime of manipulating people, Mike began to realize that joy comes from serving, not from being served.

"We're made to try to find, with God's help, our own way to help others. Whether taking out the garbage, cleaning the toilet or simply serving someone a cup of coffee and seeing the smile on their face, and giving a little service to people that makes them happy and increases their joy of the day, really makes me happy," he said.

Mike felt newfound respect for people from different backgrounds, those he used to consider inferior. The surprises kept on coming.

You have to fall pretty far down the ladder to go from a 35-bedroom mansion to a one-bedroom attic apartment. But that's what happened to Mike Gill. But believe it or not, he actually prefers his modest surroundings to this.

And that's a third floor attic, no elevator, with just a few inexpensive furnishings inside. And Mike wouldn't have it any other way.

"It's like, you know how when you're going through the airport and you're carrying too much stuff, rushing to meet a plane? I was doing that. The Bible says you're possessed by your possessions. And now I don't have any possessions," he said.

On his way to finding that peace, Mike wrote a diary, which turned into the bestseller, How Starbucks Saved My Life. Now, Tom Hanks is turning it into a movie starring himself as Mike.

"He said he loved that idea that at any time in life, you could discover a whole new kind of life that would make you happier than anything you've lived before," Mike said.

So in the wake of losing your home, job, marriage or health, look for blessings.

"When you get external shocks, the best way to react is to take a big breath and go somewhere quiet and open your heart to God," Mike said. "And He will give you all the love and joy you need to have a happier life than you would have ever imagined."

*Originally published August 19, 2009

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CBN News
Lorie  Johnson

Lorie Johnson

CBN News Medical Reporter

Lorie Johnson reports on the latest information about health and wellness. Since medicine is constantly changing, she makes sure CBN News viewers are up-to-date on what they need to know in order to live a healthy life.  Follow Lorie on Twitter @LorieCBN and "like" her at