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What’s one thing can you do today to make a difference?

Picture a thick layer of fog covering the frozen ground of Starkville, Mississippi that February morning in 1951 when George and Angela would welcome their second son, James, into the world.

And at only 27, George had already seen a lot of the world.

He was an Army veteran of World War II who had seen combat in Italy from 1943-1945.

 

Following the war, he returned home to Starkville and returned to his studies at Mississippi State, picking up where he left off before he had been called to Europe. Always an outstanding athlete, George lettered in football, basketball and track before graduating in 1947.

That’s when he met Angela.

A year later, they were married.

A year after that, their first son, George Jr. was born.

Now, as the young couple prepared to meet their second baby, the fog lifted. The day warmed.

As their family continued to grow, from just the 4 of them, to 5, and eventually to 8, George realized he needed to find better opportunities to provide for his wife and 6 children. He moved his family to Dallas to work for a finance company.

Angela and George were highly involved in their local church in Dallas, and George served on finance committees, helping guide the construction of new church buildings and a school which today is recognized as one of the finest private schools in Texas.

James grew up watching his mom and dad, and the example they set.

In the early 1980s, James and his new wife, Linda, decided to start a business in Houston. Before he could get the business off the ground, however, a potential investor backed out. With only $5,000 and a pickup, James decided to push ahead.

The next couple of years were tight. Very tight.

Even though his brother, George Jr., who worked in the Houston real estate market, had helped secure a great location on the north side of town—a place that had been an abandoned mobile home park, James was struggling to make the business work. He was constantly reinvesting his profits back into inventory, but his sales were declining.

In this slump, he decided to look over his advertising strategy. What had been working, nailing signs to telephone poles and hanging flyers on doors, was no longer cutting it.

Something had to change.

With the last $10,000 that he had to his name, he bought ad time on two local networks. His ads were going to air between commercials for trade schools and late-night wrestling.

Stopping by the studio to check the ads before they aired, James didn’t like what he saw. The ad just wasn’t right… at all. The decision was made to record a new spot, and although it was highly improvised, he poured himself into it, describing his business practices and his products.

Not sure how to wrap it all up, James, reached into his back pocket, and pulling the last couple of bucks he had (which he had taken from the register that night), said the line that has become ingrained in the psyche of Houstonians for decades:

“Gallery Furniture… really will… SAVE YOU MONEY!”

James “Jim” McIngvale, aka “Mattress Mack,” saw his business turn around.

Before the decade closed, George Sr., moved to Houston to help his son run the finance department of his furniture store. And now, though he has since departed, his influence— from the war he fought, to the churches and school he helped build, to the impact the family he raised has made on their communities— is difficult to fathom.

The question then, is not— what our parents can do for us? What advantage can we gain? What can someone else do that will benefit me?

No.

The questions to us, then, are:

How much can I become?

How high can I grow?

And then, when I am greater than I am today…

How high can I lift those around me?

Who is watching me?

Who is following the example I set?

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