How Starbucks Saved My Life

Nehemiah Luckett is the manager at the Bronxville Starbucks where Gill now works. He says Gill's forte is customer service.

"There's just this positive energy flowing from him - from him to the customers."

Customer Lisa Diaz said, "Mike's a great guy. I come in every morning at like 10 of 6 and he's always happy and cheerful."

"When you think of simple pleasures, it's coming to Starbucks and seeing Mike."

"That's the magic of serving people an enjoyable experience," Gill said, "is that you become very good friends with them, where you enjoy moments of laughter. They're just precious seconds I realized almost too late in life those are the moments you can really savor most."

"At any point did your kids say to you, 'Dad, you've just lost it?'"

"Our children have shown me so much love during this difficult time. There's never been a moment where I didn't feel that they loved me and wanted me to be happy."

One of his daughters even suggested he keep a journal, which became the basis for his book. Only after it came out this year did Mike's customers and co-workers learn the real story of the man behind the counter.

"Now when you know the full background of everything, it's an absolutely amazing story," said Luckett.

So amazing that Tom Hanks has bought movie rights, and reportedly wants to play Michael in the film.

"I was in a state of shock, because I'd written a very different ending for my life," Gill said. "I'd written sort of an unhappy life going from riches to rags, and here was Tom Hanks calling and saying he wanted to play me in a movie."

But he's hardly living a movie star's life. Home is now a third-floor walk up in Bronxville. He says he so much happier in the "cozy little attic apartment" than he ever was in the 25-room house.

"So, you've downsized a bit?"

"Right, I was downsized. Now I'm downsizing myself."

Stripped of his sense of entitlement, Mike Gill says he's a new man.

"There's not a smidgeon of me that wishes I could be back in that life. I'm so relieved that all this huge weight of this huge mansion is gone from me, and all the expectations associated with it."

"When you say Starbucks saved your life, you're not kidding."

"This is the literal truth, not a metaphor or poetic exaggeration," Gill said. "It's literally true - my life for me was over. I'm so much happier serving than I ever was being served."

Not only have his five kids accepted their father's new life, that brain tumor has turned out not to be life-threatening.

"I'm alive. I'm happier than I've ever been. And I have a chance to share my story, and maybe somebody, hopefully younger than me, can say, 'Hey, if you ever get a chance, and you feel stuck, leap to a new life.'"

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.