The Dallas Examiner
“The words that I chose were positive and it changed the direction of my life, and that’s what a lot of young people need to do. They need to change their negative thoughts to positive thoughts if they want to get out of any difficult situation,” said Paul Lamar Hunter as he looked back over the highs and lows of his childhood.
Paul, who was recently in town to receive a 2015 Breakthrough Award from Equanimity, is a motivational speaker and life coach who tours the country to talk to youth about overcoming obstacles in order to achieve their goals. He uses his life story as an example of how one’s past doesn’t have to determine their future. His story is also reflected in his memoir, No Love, No Charity: the Success of the 19th Child.
Paul was born Oct. 16, 1970, in Racine, Wisconsin. He was the 19th child out of 21 children born to James Senior and Louise Hunter.
“The best memory I had as a child was when we use to go to church as a family and then come home and eat a big family meal. That’s how it was on Sundays in the Hunter family house,” he explained.
Paul described his parents as very loving toward each other. As parents, he said his father was very affectionate, loving and kind. However, he remembered his mother as the complete opposite, stating she never gave them hugs and would constantly put them down.
Regardless, the family was close and the older siblings often helped with the younger ones and housework.
When his mother was pregnant with her 14th child, his family lived in a two-bedroom home. But because they had too many people living in their home, a sheriff came one day to deliver a notice to vacate the home within 72 hours or they would be evicted.
“The next day, God had performed a miracle because somehow a guy at the church had heard about it and came over there the next day and took my parents to go look at this house. My mom and dad did not have the money to pay the man. So the man went into his wallet and gave my mom a dollar, so my mom paid a dollar for that house,” Paul said.
He was born in that house. He described the house as a blessing and a curse, because a few years later he lost one of his older brothers when the house burned down on the night of Feb. 27, 1976, due to an electrical issue.
He remembered being rescued from the second story by firemen and said they were able to get him and his brother downstairs, but flames were surrounding them and the firemen had to act fast. The men emptied two trashcans, placed each boy in one, and went out through a window.
“I’ll never forget he had said that I don’t think this kid is going to make it, referring to my brother Thomas, because at that particular time he was trying to revive him and he could not revive him, but he had a weak pulse,” he recalled.
Paul and another sibling suffered burns but were not seriously injured. His 17-year-old brother, Michael – who had gone upstairs to help get the other children out – had to jump through a second-story window to escape the flames. He was hospitalized but listed in stable condition, according to a Journal Times article listed on the charity’s website.
The article also stated that Thomas was placed on a ventilator in the intensive care unit and was in critical condition.
After Thomas died, family and community members offered the family much needed support. But according to Paul, things took a turn for the worse as his parents began to fight with each other because his father blamed his mother for the death of their son.
A year later, his father was killed in a car accident.
A couple of years later, Paul’s mother had made it back on her feet and opened a homeless shelter. She named it Love and Charity and became the center’s director. He said that the men and women in the shelter were his biggest role models, and always encouraged him to do better by getting his education and staying away from drugs.
After Paul graduated high school and went on to get his associates degree. He worked for the Chrysler engine plant until 2010 when the plant closed, according to a recent television interview. Close to 800 people left unemployed.
He decided to go back to school and attended Upper Iowa University. He admitted that he struggled academically at times, but never gave up. He stated that his best friend, Sarah, offered him encouraging words that stuck with him.
He said that in 2012 he became the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree when he obtained his degree in Business Administration.
He said he still keeps in touch with all of his siblings and is a father of four. And besides being the best role model that he can for his children, Paul wants to use his story to encourage as many of the next generations as possible.
“A lot of my siblings – including me – had to overcome a lot of mental, spiritual, physical abuse. We had to let go of those bad behaviors and surround ourselves with people that are loving,” Hunter explained. “My main goal is to go into the high schools, middle schools, the universities and corporate America and share my personal story of success.”