James Jackson and his future wife, Anna Marie, were born at Samaritan Hospital on the NNC campus in the 1940s. At that time no one could have guessed that by age 30 they would be millionaires or that by age 40 they would give it all away in search of happiness.
Jackson was in College High’s last graduating class before it moved off campus, and he went on to graduate from NNC in 1963 with degrees in both ministry and secondary education. When speaking about his days in college, Jackson points to his coursework, the counsel of professors and the spirit of the school itself as having formed his character from a young age.
“As the old adage says, a lot of things are caught and not taught. The education and the curriculum at NNC were so important, but there was a spirit to it from the first time I sat in chapel in junior high that became my lifestyle. The whole emphasis of ‘seek ye first the kingdom of God’—that became my system.”
After Anna Marie graduated in 1965, the Jacksons relocated to Denver, Colo. Jackson’s two brothers soon followed, and the siblings went into business together. The ski market was booming in Colorado in the ’60s, and they became very successful in real estate. By age 30, Jackson was a millionaire. Something was missing, however. James and Anna Marie realized that despite all they had they were not happy.
“We said ‘wait a minute; somebody sold us a bill of goods. How much money you have doesn’t make any difference!’”
“That was really a shocker to us,” Jackson remembers. “We said ‘wait a minute; somebody sold us a bill of goods. How much money you have doesn’t make any difference!’”
In March 1973, Jackson made a promise that would change the direction of his life. “I told God, ‘You get me out of this rat race and just make me a simple man, and I’ll never use my talents and abilities to accumulate for myself again.’”
The Jacksons realized that the happiest period of their life had been when they only had each other. Over the next five years they gave everything away, keeping only their home. Seeking God’s will for their lives, they began their journey towards happiness.
While Jackson wrote his first book on economics, “What’cha Gonna Do With What’cha Got?,” God was working behind the scenes leading to Jackson’s second career as an economic consultant to countries around the world. It was in 1987 that his consulting brought him to a small clinic outside of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The building was surrounded with people who had needs that the clinic could not meet. Jackson recounts, “I went into the kitchen, and the doctor was actually doing surgical procedures in there, next to an empty oxygen tank and a small cabinet that housed a few dirty bandages.” People were being turned away due to a lack of resources, and Jackson’s heart went out to them. He returned home to Denver with a vision but no concrete plan.
“I told God, ‘You get me out of this rat race and just make me a simple man, and I’ll never use my talents and abilities to accumulate for myself again.’”
“I called together a bunch of my friends, and I told them ‘I need help. I’m in way over my head, and I don’t know anything. Someone around this table has a name or a number that can help me.’”
And someone did. Thirty days later, Jackson had $250,000 worth of donated medical supplies. This first shipment that Jackson sent to Brazil in 1987 marked the beginning of the now internationally recognized non-profit Project C.U.R.E. (Commission on Urgent Relief and Equipment).
Present-day Project C.U.R.E. is proof that God will do great things when we allow Him to work through us. Since Jackson founded the organization, it has shipped over one billion dollars’ worth of goods to more than 130 countries worldwide. There are now five distribution centers and 12 collection centers operating with the help of more than 15,000 volunteers. Jackson praises God for the organization’s overwhelming growth and success, saying, “That’s gotta be a miracle!”
Fifty years after graduation, Jackson proclaims himself to be “the happiest man in the world.” It has been a difficult journey, but he and Anna Marie ultimately found true happiness throuh giving instead of receiving, and by seeking first the kingdom of God.
To learn more about Dr. James W. Jackson and his search for happiness, read his book “The Happiest Man in the World: Life Lessons from a Cultural Economist.”