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Jun 01, 2017 | Carol E. Barnwell

Charlie Hall Sheds Light on (Non)Disabilities

Charlie Hall runs the company his mother, Rose Ann Hall, founded in Dallas in 1988. Charlie, born without the lower parts of his arms, employs 24 people in his San Miguel de Allende atelier, five of whom also have physical disabilities. The company produces copper items, carved glass products and handmade candles, bathing layer after layer of paraffin (infused with crystalized amber) over the wick in a centuries-old method. The well-known Santa Rosa candles, imprinted with a gold logo for the workshop’s patron saint, are used in churches and cathedrals throughout Mexico and are available at better home stores in the U.S. Hall attended high school in Dallas before attending Stephen F. Austin State University for his bachelor’s and master's in finance and accounting. He worked in corporate finance for Intel, before moving to Mexico in 2005 and talking up the reins of the company.

CEB: What are your earliest memories of faith/church and who was instrumental in teaching you about Jesus?
CH: My family was always involved in church. My parents led EYC (Episcopal Youth Community) and were involved in many other activities. We went to a small mission church outside of Dallas in those days. Every Sunday after church we always went to people’s homes. Almost all of my babysitters were kids who were a part of EYC.

The first priest at this church was very influential in my parents’ lives. He and his wife became very close to my parents and truly helped my parents through some of the early years of my life. Although I don’t remember him, I do know his influence.

Early on, I also began attending Camp Crucis, part of the Diocese of Dallas. It remained a large part of my life from elementary through high school.

Later we attended one of the larger churches in Dallas where I was involved in EYC, served as an acolyte and was very involved in diocesan youth activities.

In August of 1980, I began attending Stephen F. Austin University. This was my introduction to the Diocese of Texas. I became involved with the Canterbury at SFA. (To this day, I am still close to camp friends and Canterbury friends.)  I also was part of The Commission on Recovery beginning in 1986.

I’m also still very close to our Canterbury chaplain, the Rev. Michael L. Falls, who was in Nacogdoches for many years. He has been a huge influence in my life and my theology, but most of all an amazing support as my life has changed so much since our first meeting.

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CEB: Was there ever a time when you questioned your faith?
CH: I question my faith daily. When you look like I look and speak like I speak … I am constantly confronted with the reactions of others. Or when I am trying to do or accomplish certain things that might be frustrating or difficult, I am constantly reminded that I am different.

For me to question is also for me to grow. (This business is a wonderful example of that.) Faith is inside. It’s within who I am and everything that I do. But for me, often faith is better seen in hindsight than in the moment. In the moment, I am full of passion, energy of all types—both positive and negative. Yet in looking back through struggles, I see and I know that faith was always present.

I love what the Prayer Book says about sacrament: “An outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” One of my greatest struggles is reconciling the inward and the outward: “How am I the same? And how am I different?" True faith for me is when I can just be who I am, who God called me to be without any feelings of being unique or self-conscious.

CEB: What particular gifts do you find most helpful in your position as owner of an international business?
CH: Somehow, I have this business in Mexico. My new definition of insanity is starting a business in a country where you can’t speak the language. My greatest gift might just be how stubborn I am. Not only with this business, but in life, perhaps a better word might be “perseverance.”  Sometimes opportunities present themselves in life and this place presented itself to me. This was not planned, it was, in many ways, an accident. I think this is also where faith and risk come together. Trusting that where life has led you is where you’re supposed to be or at least take advantage of where you are.

CEB: When has your faith sustained you in a particularly difficult time?
CH: From the time I was young, Mexico has been incredibly kind to me. So, when the opportunity presented itself and I had the opportunity to hire people who might be considered different, it was only natural.

I used to tell people that it was easy. I felt that if I was honest and let them know it was difficult for me, then why would others want to try it? Bringing all types of people together and making a cohesive, open, accepting environment is challenging in the best of times.

CEB: When have you encountered the miraculous in your life?
CH: One of the most recent miracles in my life has been through what I am doing now. Somehow with this business and the people working here, I, and hopefully many others, have been transformed. Recently, driving home from a party where there had been all types of people, I realized I had not once felt self-conscious. I had been just “me.” For me this was huge. I know that in so many ways it’s because of this place. I have been forced to grow in ways that I never imagined possible.

The miraculous is that I am not bilingual and yet an environment has been created here that amazes our visitors. I’ve never had anyone leave here that hasn’t felt something special.

Words convey so much, but love (as trite and corny as that might sound) is so much more powerful and effective.

The artisans here now learn their craft from one another after the initial teachings.

People often tell me what an amazing thing I’ve done. I just opened the door and yes, over time, learned with lots of help from lots of wonderful people to allow the environment to flourish.

CEB: How does your faith inform your relationships?
CH: True work with others can only be when you intuitively know what to do or say in the moment. So often there’s not enough time to think or plan. Education and experiences help. They build a foundation. True faith for me has come through the years by having to finally go inside and deal with my demons. The biggest of which has been the struggle of how am I the same … different!  Realizing that I am both, which in the end makes me the same. Working with others in the most effective way is having faith that the work that I’ve done on my inner self— working through issues such as anger, resentments, etc.—will be available to share with others on a moment’s notice.

See Charlie’s TEDx Talk on YouTube

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