Louis “Big Lou” Parker is in the midst of dealing with life’s latest jab. In mid-August, a thief made off with his truck, the linchpin of his lawn service, Big Lou’s A Touch of Class. But the imposing Omahan is not angry or sullen. He is grateful.
“The Bible says in all things give thanks. I don’t know why I’m going through this right now, but my business is blessed,” he says. “I know it’s for a reason. It’s for a purpose.”
More than an entrepreneur, Big Lou, 52, is an accomplished fighter. A former professional boxer – yes – but a fighter in a much deeper sense; a man who has fearlessly faced challenge after challenge, been knocked down in life and through faith and sheer will, has returned to his feet.
The temptation here is to quote Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa. But Big Lou, who is 6 feet 5 inches tall and can bench press almost 400 pounds, delivers inspiring words of his own:
“I believe anything worth having is worth working for … Ain’t nothing worth having that’s going to be easy.”
“I believe we’re all slated for a certain purpose, and once we find our purpose, that’s when things start flourishing for us.”
“No matter where you find yourself, you don’t have to stay there. A lot of people get complacent because they think, ‘I was dealt this hand, and I have to ride it out.’ … If you just put God first, there’s nothing you can’t do.”
Rooted in faith, Big Lou is an avid volunteer, prison ministry mentor and general man for others. That was not always the case.
A self-described “bully” in his younger days, he found positive guidance at Omaha’s C.W. Boxing Club. That led to a 17-year amateur and professional boxing career, but he says alcohol and marijuana short-circuited his rise.
“I believe if I had put more into it, I would have got more out of it,” he said.
In 2006, a devastating blow — the Lupus-related death of his first wife — dramatically changed the trajectory of Big Lou’s life. He promised Julie that he would raise their five children “right.” He found Christ and sobriety and opened a soul food restaurant, Big Lou’s.
Then came an uppercut: a massive heart attack, mild stroke and blood disorder. Medical bills proved too much. Big Lou had to declare bankruptcy and lost the restaurant. Denied disability and struggling to support his family, he turned to Heart Ministry Center, a social service mainstay that encompasses, among other things, a food pantry and clothing closet, self-sufficiency training, a job-placement program, a free dental clinic and the free Porto Urgent Care Clinic, sponsored, in part, by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska.
“The Heart Ministry has been a godsend,” he said. Not content to simply be given help, Big Lou was determined to give his time as a Heart Ministry Center volunteer.
“I was there every day, doing whatever needed to be done,” he said. “I’ve always been a hard worker. I’ve always believed in going in all the way. And I’ve always had a heart to help people.”
Big Lou has big praise for the center staff and gratitude for above-and-beyond outreach that included assistance in securing the truck, trailer and equipment he needed to launch Big Lou’s A Touch of Class.
“I love the staff like family. They’re a part of my life,” he says. “It’s the best organization I have ever been a part of. Go down and watch the miracles that happen daily.”
Heart Ministry Center’s executive director Jim Clements said, “An important part of our mission is to find men and women a way forward. When people like Big Lou succeed, we know how special it is because we know how hard it is to break the cycle of poverty. We are just here to help. It’s people like Big Lou who do the work to succeed.”
Big Lou, who has remarried, takes great pride in the fact that he kept his promise – his children are all on the right path. Despite the recent theft, he is optimistic about his future.
“I’m restored totally. I’m glad I was denied the disability because now I’m working. I’m vibrant. I feel great,” he says. “My business is thriving. God willing, I’ll be able to get two crews here shortly.”
To other fighters out there, he offers this inspiration: It’s not where you start – it’s where you finish.
“I’ve been knocked down a few times, but I got back up,” he said. “The Bible says, ‘The race is not given to the swift or neither to the strong but to those who endure.’ I cast my cares on God because I know he’s got it all.”
“Faces of Fearless” is a storytelling series in Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska’s “Live Fearless” campaign celebrating people living their very best lives and inspiring others to do the same.