Today I am interviewing a man and woman from Louisiana who had it all – well-paying jobs and a magnificent house on a private 110-acre lake. But, they gave it all up to enjoy a life of adventure and helping others.
Mike Gill became an insurance agent at the age of 18 and, due to his tremendous productivity, he worked as a manager for 41 years. His wife, Betty, was the senior vice president of a locally-owned bank. They had a lifestyle that many people would find envious.
But, in 2014, their lives took a sudden turn. They lost an 18-day-old grandson. Betty’s house burned to the ground. Even worse, two of their closest friends, ages 48 and 57, died of heart attacks. When that happened, Mike told Betty, “I’m coming home tomorrow. I’m not going to die doing what I’m doing right now knowing there is something else for us.”
The couple didn’t have anywhere near the $2 million financial experts claim people need to retire comfortably. But, they did own a motorhome and loved to travel. They discovered Workamping as a way to help finance their travel dreams by working short-term jobs for various employers around the country.
They loved going to new places and meeting new people. However, when an opportunity came up for them to work at Dollywood amusement park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., they didn’t hesitate. Mike and Betty had visited Dollywood on their honeymoon in 2006 and were anxious to spend an entire season at the park.
While attending a training class on their very first day, they noticed a statement on the first page of the employee handbook. It said, “God has you here for a purpose.” Betty turned to Mike and proclaimed they weren’t leaving the park until told to do so.
Today, the couple works two jobs in the area. One as a camp host for an RV park in Pigeon Forge, and the other at the food service department in Dollywood. Both jobs gives them plenty of spending money and a free RV site. Most importantly, it allows them to put their people skills to work mentoring teenagers and young adults, and changing the direction of their lives.
Mike and Betty realized the money they made and the nice house they owned were wonderful perks, but the couple felt called to do much more in the second half of their lives than sit back and enjoy it. Being strong people of faith, Mike and Betty wanted their lives to have an impact on other people.
The couple found opportunity to make a difference everywhere they looked. Simply stopping at a gas station to clean a windshield became an answer to a prayer for another couple seeking confirmation about a major life decision.
A young boy who had a hard time showing any emotion or interacting with others, burst into smile during a moment that brought tears to his mother – and major recognition to Mike for demonstrating Dollywood’s values and commitment to families.
A teenager with attention-deficit, hyperactivity disorder was about to lose his job. Then Mike suggested a way for managers to tap into the young man’s strengths. The advice saved the teen’s job and he continues to thrive today.
Betty has mentored young people from Thailand, New Zealand, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and all over the world who come to Dollywood to work. Together, the couple has become surrogate grandparents for orphans, foster children and others who have never benefited from such relationships, as well as people who miss their own grandparents.
When the Gills aren’t working at Dollywood or the RV park, they have been traveling around the country. Many people ask them about their favorite places to visit, but Betty immediately tells them it’s not about the places, rather the people God put in their lives that is important. Today, Mike and Betty have friends all over the United States.
That’s all I have for this week’s show. If you’d like help in identifying a purpose for your life or to get help planning your next steps, I’m offering a complimentary brainstorming session to members of the Forward From 50 Facebook community. For details, connect with me on Facebook or visit www.forwardfrom50.com.
I’ll have another inspirational interview on the next episode of the Forward From 50 podcast. Thanks for listening. If you like this show, please consider leaving a review wherever you download the episodes.
After closing his business and enduring several painful years of uncertainty regarding what to do with his life, Greg founded Forward From 50 to help men and women over 50 to live more purposeful lives by pursuing things they are passionate about. A Wisconsin native, Greg currently lives in Arizona.