Friday, November 29, 2013

Thankful Thursday #13

Working with Wajeeha to bring the story of her planned journey to help her people in Pakistan to the attention of readers, I realized just what I am perhaps most grateful for in my life as a whole: the opportunity to help others.

1. They say that charity begins at home, and home is where I have had a great and rewarding opportunity to help others. First, Blaine came into our house; his father had disappeared back into Mexico when he was two years old and his mother threw him out of their house in the barrio when he was 14 because he refused to help her with her drug business. Then, my friend, Zina, called me from Moscow and informed me that she was sending her daughter, Ksenya, to live with us; this was right around the raspad (dissolution of the Soviet Union) and opportunities for someone with a mixture of Armenian, Tatar and Jewish blood in Mosocw were limited. And, our last live-at-home addition, Shura, was sent to me from Siberia by his parents in Siberia in a desperate attempt to save his life, which, with the clear help of God, we and those helping us did. Today Blaine is working as the head of the IT department for a university in South Carolina, Ksenya is working on becoming a Hollywood star (and has had her own show at one of the LA clubs), and Shura, having spent 15 years living and working in the USA, has returned to Russia to take care of his aging parents and continue his art work. What a gift God gave us with these three additional children!

2. Although both my birth children and the three children who were given to me are now in their 30s, I don't lack for additional mothering opportunities. Two twenty-something Iraqis living in Jordan, Shem and Leyla, who had been my work study students at the university there where I was the dean, latched onto me as their in loco parentis mother, their own families in Iraq being unreachable because of the war; they remain in frequent contact with me, and I visit them whenever I go to Jordan. They seem like my own children, coming to me when they need advice, cheering up, or support of any type. Then there is also Maha in Bahrain, who instantly adopted me as "Mom, when a clerk in a store where she was looking at makeup told her that she looked fine without it but her mother (me) really needed it. (Now there's a comment to which one does not know how to react!) She is about the same age as my younger children and has called me "Mom" ever since that incident. Ironically, over time I have served in that capacity as she has experienced some very difficult moments and has needed emotional support for extremely trying life events (the arrest and torture of her brother) which ultimately and surprisingly turned out okay, thanks to many prayers; she also came to visit me in California just the way any of my other children would. Finally, there is Yahyah, a Jordanian about the same age as my middle children, whose mother worried about him living in the USA until I promised her to be his "American mother" -- a promise that all three of us (he, she, and I) have taken very seriously, and he has become a real member of my family, going on outings with us, attending family gatherings, attending Mass and Bible Studies with me, and celebrating birthdays (his, too) and other occasions with us. Being a part of these young adults' lives have taught me so much more about their cultures and the ways in which the youth of these lands think than any number of college courses could possibly have made clear. A rich gift, indeed!

3. Not only have children been sent to me; so have animals, cats in particular. Donnie and I have rescued nearly 50 cats, about half of them in the US and another half in Jordan. For most of those cats we found homes after taming them or cared for them as feral animals until they died. Some still live with us: Murjan, Intrepid, and Simone. Anyone who has ever had a pet knows what comfort and friendship they bring to a relationship, relationships for which I am and always will be grateful.

4. It would appear that God put me in my current job for a reason. Although I initially and in the beginning tried to squirm out of the assignment, I have grown to love it and to be grateful to God for the opportunity to help so many people who work for me. In addition to run-of-the-mill mentoring that comes with any leadership experience, there are three clear examples that I have shared on this blog before that indicate to me that there is a reason for my being here. One was the case of Tareq who experienced a medical miracle and brought our division together through prayer for him. There was also the employee who was slated to be fired until I went to a meeting and found an extra manager there; our personnel office intended to him but I fortunately recognized divine intervention for what it was. The third instance was a time when I was sitting in a far-off land on a business trip, reading in my hotel room, and heard the words, "Bring him to me," along with seeing a vision of one of my employees, far below me on the hierarchical ladder; I did what I was told, and some benefit seemed to ensue from that, at least to the employee. More important, to me, than the situations of these three people about whom I have blogged earlier, is the case of an employee that had worked for me 13 years earlier as a manager but after I had left (my current job is a higher level position in the same organization that I worked at in the 1980s), he had fallen apart, given in to alcoholism, would come to work with long, dirty hair, disheveled, unwashed clothes, and the smell of alcohol on his breath. His current supervisor was preparing to fire him when one of his friends came to see me and explained the situation. We both knew that since this empoloyee's wife had died four years earlier, he would be alone at home with his bottles, and, given that he has diabetes, would be in very bad shape very quickly. I asked his supervisor to transfer him to me, and I told him that I would only take him if he cleaned up his act. He arrived in suit, tie, and freshly trimmed hair. I gave him a management position, but he soon fell off the bandwagon again and passed out at work. Even though both he and I knew that he was suffering from a hangover, I treated the situation as if it were not alcohol-related and insisted that he go to the hospital for discovery of the reason for his loss of consciousness, and I sent his supervisor with him to make sure he got there. All of us were surprised when the hospital discovered that he was in the early stages of lung cancer. They admitted him, operated right away, and got out all the cancer that might otherwise not have been discovered until too late. He has been fine ever since, and he has not come to work inebriated again, either. A few days ago, the same friend who asked me to take on this employee, dropped by my office. He, too, now works for me. He mentioned how wonderful it was to see his friend living a productive work life and a happy home life. "Bez tebya," he said, "on umer by." (Without you, he would have died.) Of course, he also had in mind the close call with cancer. That is a special gift indeed -- to have the opportunity to save a life. Now, I thank God every day that He put me in this job that I did not want.

5. Leaders, to help their employees, sometimes have to take immense risks. I have told senior managers whom I have trained to work with difficult "overlords" that if one is to do the right thing (as opposed to doing things right), in other words, to take the moral, compassionate, supportive approach as opposed to the approach of appeasing one's own supervisor(s), then one has to be willing to lose one's own job. Doing the right thing is more important than keeping one's job if keeping the job means doing the wrong thing. My job in Jordan challenged me strongly in this regard. To protect employees from an abusive boss, I would draw his anger away from them and often that meant it landed on me. Finally, one day, I was fired. Later my boss mentioned to my administrative assistant that I had been doing the right thing and he had made a mistake in firing me, that it was simply an emotional reaction that he had been unable to control. The third most important thing about my losing the job is that the senior managers understood at last what I meant, and more of them became morally braver. The second most important thing about losing the job was that it forced me into taking the job that God seemed to be pushing me into, and the fact that I immediately had another job, a good one, did not fail to impress those senior managers whom I had been trying to teach the importance of risk-taking on behalf of employees. The very most important thing about my losing the job, however, is that it brought me back to California in time to be present to help my children when my little granddaughter, Nikolina, was born with life-threatening OEIS Complex and they had to spend months with her at Stanford University Hospital. Donnie and I were here to babysit my grandson, to offer moral support, and when the little girl came home to watch her occasionally so my children could get some breathing room. God has my eternal thanks for pushing me into a position where I not only have had so many opportunities to help others but also to help my own family (And I try always now to be just a little more obedient!)

More information about one of the Thankful Thursday memes can be found at the website of Women Taking a Stand. This meme host is shared with other blogs so you will need to check to see which one is hosting any given month.

Link up with Greg's and Daryl's Thankful Thursday at Greg's General Store.


  1. God bless your precious heart.

  2. Wow - what an awesome caregiving heart - for friends, family, grandchildren, and pets! Your post was very much a blessing to read.

  3. you do have a wonderful heart...I know that even from your emails with me....this post shows it's truth even more. Tons of blessings to you.

  4. "it is more blessed to give than to recieve." It sounds like this has rung true for you this week! God is using you to help others, and in turn He is rewarding you richly! Happy Thankful Thursday.

  5. How thankful I am for your willingness to invest God's love into so many young lives. I loved reading about them each one. Keep to it, sister.


  6. Thanks, Kaye.

    Blessings to you, too, Sarah.

    Your comment is spot on, Whidbey.

    Elaine, thanks!

  7. " Doing the right thing is more important than keeping one's job if keeping the job means doing the wrong thing."

    You have no idea how this one sentence spoke to me on this day...thank you so much for caring and sharing.


  8. God bless you! You have such a heart of gold!

  9. As long as we let Him, God will place us where we can best serve Him. Sort of the Esther syndrome -- sometimes we can recognize it.

  10. I am glad that this particular sentence spoke to you, Debra.

    Thank you, Serendipity.

    Steve, I already follow your blog.

    Grammy Block, yep, God is pretty good about doing that!