Johnston was in pharmacy school and unsure if he was going to be able to finish. He had taken a year off to work and build up funds to continue when a family friend gave him $200. In 1949 that was quite a chunk of change. She told Johnston to finish his schooling and “pay it back for someone else” down the road.
Johnston grew up in a time when luxuries were few, and admits he was greatly affected by growing up in the times of the Great Depression. He obviously did not come from a wealthy family or he wouldn’t have been struggling to pay for his school, but he has clear memories of his mother feeding migrant workers and packing them to-go meals. Johnston says his mother, while not a wealthy woman, understood we have an obligation to help those trying to find work and better themselves.
Johnston finished school and decided to build a fund to keep his promise. He saved $80,000 and then began to invest it. He never dipped into the money, sustaining himself on his pharmacist wages. He continued to grow the fund, and eventually it reached a flat million dollars.
His advice? “Never buy what you want, just buy what you need.” Such simple advice, yet nearly every American could benefit from this principle.
Our older generation has been trying to tell us for years that we are fortunate and should be saving for the future. For the last 40 years, what we consider normal is a royal standard of living for most of the world. Some might say “you NEED television and you WANT cable,” and some would remind them you need food, shelter and toiletries and everything else is icing on the cake. We could be more aware of our many blessings, which would allow us to better appreciate our luxuries and take more pleasure in them.
One man will changes hundreds, if not thousands of lives from his donations. He is educated, kind and honorable. He didn’t go without necessities, but by knowing the difference between what he had to have and what he could do without, he will provide luxuries and services to others, and for many years. His lifetime of labor, his legacy, will be one that would have made his mother and generous friend very proud. We need more people like him, and every single one of us can contribute. It doesn’t have to be money, but touching lives and doing good is something we all have the power to do.
This isn’t a multimillionaire who donated a million dollars. He’s an average man of modest means who saved a lifetime to show his gratitude. That’s what makes him special.
Cross-posted at Zandar’s blog as well.