“A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
F.A.I.T.H.: Forgetting Advice and Initiating Trust & Hope
What allows us to take that first step of faith, even when fear stands there like a big bully, telling us we can’t do it? Some people would say it’s having faith in something higher than ourselves – God or the Universe – that will make sure everything will be okay. This may be true, but what if we don’t have this kind of faith or we have lost it because something or someone has disappointed us?
What do we fall back on to provide us with the faith we need? It depends on how old we are of course as to how many times in our lives we can refer back to what did work out to give us the faith to persevere. These are called Milestones of Faith. I have had to refer back to them many times; especially when all odds are against me in terms of finding a job, getting approved for a loan or credit, selling a house, etc.
I want to share my “Debra” story with you. This milestone story was the first that really began to change my perspective and help me to believe that though I might have been making decisions in my life, there was definitely some force – energy, love, wisdom – that was guiding my steps.
One day when I was bored – and frustrated at not being able to land a full-time teaching job – I called the overseas placement office at my University and inquired about what I needed in order to teach overseas. The gentleman – the placement officer – gave me a detailed lecture as to why I didn’t qualify, as one needed to have at least two years teaching experience within Canada first or one needed to apply through the job fair that happened in late winter and hope to be chosen as a successful candidate by one of the representatives from a foreign country.
I was literally hanging up the phone after thanking him for his information – albeit disheartening, when I heard him say, “Well, just a minute. I might have something you’re interested in. I’ve got a vacant teaching position as the girl who was supposed to go backed out at the last-minute, but it’s in Colombia, South America and they would need you to start in two weeks. So, you’re probably not interested.”
I responded with one question: “Where is Colombia, South America?” He proceeded to explain to me where it was located and what was expected in such a job and what was the hiring process. I didn’t say no and I didn’t say yes. I listened and pondered what my mother would say if I told her that her youngest daughter was going to fly to another country – another continent – and teach. In essence, live the dream I had known I would live since I was a very little girl.
I knew that it was what I was meant to do. Hence, I said I was willing to at least prepare to go and I did just that. I travelled back and forth to Toronto at least twice to apply and pick up my work visa; I sold my things – at least the things I could, and I researched as much as I could about Colombia. I went to my National Geographic “Earth” book and looked up Colombia. I had read and re-read that book so many times that I actually remembered the only visual I had of Colombia – it was of a group of tribal men carrying a huge anaconda – a dead one – through a field. And still this did not scare me off. I had decided too, to take my 10 week old puppy – ironically named, “Winter” with me to a tropical foreign country.
Two weeks later, I said goodbye to my boyfriend, my cat, my country and my life as I had known it and Winter and I embarked on the journey of a lifetime. This is where my inner journey truly began – because what happened next changed my thinking and my beliefs forever. After first being offered the position by the placement officer, he recommended that I get in touch with the Principal of the school in which I would be working in Colombia to learn more about the school, the country and make arrangements for picking me up at the airport. I remember her words – I always will – when we were saying goodbye for the last time before my trip. She said, “I will be at the airport with a sign with your name on it and I am bringing Debra with me.” It seemed an odd thing to say because I had no idea who Debra was, nor would there be any reason for me to know a Debra in Colombia, South America and yet the Principal’s tone indicated that I should know.
Hence, when I stepped off of the plane, retrieved my baggage and walked out in to the arrival lobby of the airport, surrounded by men with automatic machine guns – a vision I had never before seen in Canada – I was astounded when beside the woman I assumed was my new Principal, was Debra. A girl – the only girl I had become friends with in Canada during my year in Teacher’s college. She was standing there smiling and I knew in an instant that I was in exactly the place I was meant to be.
This scary journey of travelling over 2000 miles to another continent where I knew no one, suddenly turned into a sacred journey of revelation for me. I did know someone already and she – Debra – turned out to be both my colleague and my roommate for my first year in Colombia which eased all of my fear and trepidation in an instant. I was home: If one could call an entirely different country, culture and race, home. I did, for three more years of my life even though the contract was originally only for 9 months. The “Debra” story doesn’t end there, however.
Three years later – yes, I loved Colombia so much that I remained there teaching for three more years – I returned to Canada. Debra had returned a year earlier and I had lost touch with her. She was originally from a small town east of Toronto and so I naturally assumed she would have found a job somewhere near that area.
In any case, I spent the next eight months living on my savings and searching for a teaching job. I waited eagerly from January until June and by the time the summer was ending, I was almost out of money with no job prospects. However, about two days before the end of August, I applied for a job with a school west of Toronto. My interview was at 3pm on the first day of school! Who gets hired the first day of school? I thought to myself.
I was sitting in the interview room and the Principal said to me, “Choose a question from the board and answer it in any order that you choose.” I chose number 7: It asked, “What is the most interesting experience you’ve had in your life?” I began to talk about my teaching experience in Colombia and 2-3 minutes later when I brought up Debra as an aside; the Principal looked at me and said, “You don’t mean our Debra?”
I looked just as baffled as her I’m sure, and said, “well, if you mean Debra ________, yes, that’s who I am talking about.” The Principal looked at me and she replied: “You are never going to believe this, but we have a Debra ________ here at our school who lived and taught in Colombia for two years and she’s been working here for almost two years now. She is transferring to another school and so her position is the one you will be taking over.”
I sat there in disbelief. Not only did I finally have an interview, but of all the school boards and in all of the schools within that school board; and of all the positions I could be interviewing for, could it be possible that it was the Debra ________ who I had once again “followed” to the place in which I was meant to be?
In that moment, the Principal stopped the interview and called Debra down to the office from her classroom. You can imagine her surprise when she came through the door to find me interviewing for the job she was leaving. Needless to say, they hired me. I think we were all in shock. Since that day, I have never looked at my life the same way. It has given me the faith I have needed in many circumstances when it appears that there is no job, no opportunity, no door opening – I wait in expectation for that ‘new’ door to open and for a “Debra” to be standing there to greet me.
I want to encourage you today to remind yourself of your milestones. What “Debra” story do you have in your life that you can remind yourself of when times seem hopeless? If you don’t have a Debra story, perhaps you have something similar or a time when a job, opportunity, or door opened for you when it seemed to be shut tight. These are the times in our lives that we must hang on to tightly. They are as much for our future faith as they were to enhance our past experiences.
“One of the saddest lines in the world is, ‘Oh come now – be realistic.’ The best parts of this world were not fashioned by those who were realistic. They were fashioned by those who dared to look hard at their wishes and gave them horses to ride.” Richard Nelson Bolles
If you truly want to be inspired and to remind yourself that even if you do not “see the whole staircase” watch Martin Luther King Jr.’s Famous Speech, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V57lotnKGF8 and then remember that the United States of America now has a Black President!
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