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The Christophers: Rising Out of Poverty & Homelessness


Toni Rossi, Director of Communications


Some of you may have heard the inspiring story of Griffin Furlong. He received some press in 2014 for the amazing accomplishment of becoming a high school valedictorian while struggling with homelessness. People Magazine and Today Media both ran stories on him shortly before his graduation, and several months later, Sports Illustrated did a piece entitled “Young, Gifted & Homeless,” in which Griffin was featured among a group of other student-athletes who have struggled with homelessness.

Now in his mid-twenties, Griffin works as a civil engineer, and he is writing a book about his journey to this point in life. It is a journey filled with tragedy, joy, and life lessons that propelled him to become a person who would never give up. The lessons Griffin learned reveal universal truths that should inspire us all to make the most of what we’re given in life.

When he was only six years old, Griffin faced the tragedy of watching his mother die of cancer. “I still remember seeing her ill at home,” Griffin said in his interview with Today Media. “I’d cry every night. My brother and I made a pact saying we would do everything for her and do everything to make our family’s life better.”

After his mother’s passing, Griffin’s family descended into a cycle of poverty and homelessness as his father first struggled to find work and then got injured on a job. With the family in and out of homeless shelters and going hungry at times, Griffin and his older brother, Sean, formed a strong bond based on their mutual desire for survival and the shared secret of their situation, a secret based on their inability to tell peers of their plight.

When news stories finally revealed their situation, people were shocked to realize that such a great student had faced so many challenges. And when Griffin stood up to give his valedictory speech at graduation, it was an astounding moment that demonstrated the power of the human spirit to overcome the most difficult circumstances. “Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, because I’ve been told that all my life,” Griffin said. “People would tell me I wasn’t smart enough, and now I’m here at the top of my class.”

In the most difficult times, it was their love for the game of baseball that brought Griffin and Sean together. At one point in his youth, Griffin wrote on the bill of his baseball cap, “Just never give up,” words that would come to define his life. He went on to receive a full academic scholarship to Florida State University, and he eventually achieved his goal of becoming a civil engineer. Now, as he writes his memoir, he dreams of lifting his entire family out of poverty once and for all and relieving his father from the burden of working difficult, low-paying jobs.

In his valedictory address at high school graduation, Griffin said, “I make the grades I do because once I was lost and had nothing.”

We are all called to the kind of ingenious fortitude displayed by Griffin Furlong, as we see in the Parable of the Talents where we’re told to risk what little we have to reap a greater reward. In his earnest efforts, Griffin risked the fragility of his spirit as a child to meet the world each day with hope. The reward he has reaped is the greatest of all – resilience and strength of character.

 

For a free copy of The Christophers’ ASKING FOR HELP IS A SIGN OF STRENGTH, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org

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