Charles Gross: A Purposeful & Meaningful Life
A native of Los Angeles, Charles Gross joined MBB in 2011, starting out as a student member in the Dominguez Hills university chapter. After attending MBB’s 4th Annual Congress held in Los Angeles in 2011, he began serving on the Fund Development Committee, researching prospective grants and creating a grants database for the MBB. In 2013, he coordinated logistics for speakers and participants of the Istanbul Congress. He recently joined the Membership Engagement Committee with the goal of working toward growing the organization. Charles additionally serves as a Mediator with the Centinela Youth Services Family and Victim Offender Program and is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Education in Organizational Leadership. Deeply spiritual, Charles attributed being majorly influenced by the teachings of the church he grew up worshiping at. It instilled in him deep values of social justice and compassion for humanity.
In 2001, Charles entered academic life getting accepted into UCLA with an eye toward eventually obtaining a Law Degree. In the spring of junior year, life changed in a profound way. Charles became the victim of an opportunistic violent crime committed by an assailant on a drug-induced high. The assailant pressed a gun to his right temple, demanded money then senselessly pulled the trigger. Charles’ life changed forever.
“I was completely paralyzed on the left side for several months following the attack. Parts of my skull were shattered, a whole section of my brain damaged. My field of vision was impaired. I was unable to see peripherally. Doctors declared that I would never walk again.” Charles had lost some functioning of his mobility, memory, speech, but he had NOT lost his will to overcome the odds and the faith that he could.
Charles fought for his life and mobility after the shooting, living in hospitals, undergoing occupational, physical and emotional rehabilitation. He describes this time as one that served as his sabbatical for reflection, reexamination of the meaning and purpose of his life. After six months of grueling therapy, Charles overcame the odds and returned to UCLA to complete his Bachelor’s degree and graduate.
“That experience catalyzed in me the lived-knowledge and recognition that there is great potential within every one of us to live purposeful and meaningful lives. Without having lived and gone through what I did, I would not have come to know my true calling. I would have plowed through college and life to do what I had mapped out for myself, perhaps never really knowing about living with deep purpose and meaning”.
Charles spoke of his evolution during his healing process of reaching a state of being able to freely forgive, not just in a trite sense of the word, or because it’s the noble or moral thing to do, but the arrival in his process of experiencing that “forgiveness” of the assailant as a full release from the painful, toxic emotions that for a time held his mind, spirit and body captive, then experiencing the metamorphosis of that pain, fear and anger into deep restoration, healing and renewal of life. “Once I was able to forgive, fully forgive, I transformed. I was in the depths of despair a decade ago. I’m not there anymore. Whatever mountain you are trying to climb, whatever you are struggling to recover from, the many obstacles you face, keep on going, keep moving…don’t look back and you’ll reach the top of that mountain”.
His recovery fueled a shift in his life trajectory, finding his calling for creating deep social change through working to instill hope and positive change with young people. Charles pursued a Master’s in Education, taught briefly then completed a second Masters in Conflict Resolution and Mediation from UC Dominguez Hills. “I do the best I can each minute, every day. I connect with so many people daily and I build on those connections…and keep moving”. A decade after coming face to face with grave disability, two Masters degrees later and currently embarking on his doctorate degree at Pepperdine University, Charles continues his work with MBB busy coordinating logistics and operations for the upcoming 2015 Bucharest Congress.