Friday, 28 October 2011

Helping Hands

I've talked a bit in this space before about accepting help; how difficult it is for some to do so. That used to be me.  To an extent, it still is - but not in as many instances.

One of the instances in which I find I will readily accept help, is in the area of career development.  I have been blessed to cross paths on this journey with several people who've had my interest at heart.  The role that they have played in my life cannot be overstated.  Even as I have had to do my part - dream; study; apply myself; work hard; aim high - theirs has not gone unnoticed.  For the most part, it's the inspiration.  I've often said that sometimes, you just need to be inspired.  And it's true.  Sometimes you just need to feel that wind beneath your wings.  Sometimes you just need to hear that voice beside you saying, "Don't worry.  You can do it.  I believe in you."

And, I have had that.  I've had that from my parents and siblings.  I've had that from teachers at all levels.  I've had that from dear friends and new friends and, occasionally, associates and colleagues.  And, while I do not take for granted that which I've received from family and friends, it is the help from senior persons in my field for which I am very thankful at this point.  I imagine I could look at it this way.  Years ago, I got the foundation of inspiration and encouragement down pat.  Now, as I venture into new areas, God is blessing me with a new kind of help; help for this time, if you will.  I don't have blinkers on, shutting everything else out; crushing people beneath me and all that jazz.  But, I do aspire to positions in which I feel I would make a positive difference; know exactly what I'm doing and why; like what I do; be good at it and impact the way in which the service or program is carried out, to make people's lives better.

It helps to be prepared for when new opportunities arise. It doesn't make sense to simply sit waiting - as if with a sense of entitlement - twiddling the thumbs and nothing else. Additionally, sometimes, having done the work, I've had to put myself out there, expressing an interest, even if there is a probability of not getting it.  However, by now we've heard the term in biz-speak: "top of mind".  Yes, I've seen that "top of mind" thing work!  Recently, I wanted to get into a particular program and was told that it was closed for the rest of the fiscal year.  Well, wouldn't you know it?  I got a call sometime after when a vacancy arose.  As the caller put it, when he was asked whether anyone would be interested at this point, I was the first person to come to mind! Long and short, I got in.

That's the kind of thing I'm talking about when I say "help".  It mightn't be something tangible, but it is a move that prepares you for, or propels you into, more favourable positions for greater development.  It's sad but true, that in the world of business, many new opportunities are realized through "who knows you".  The main question is whether you are prepared for an opportunity, or simply "fake it 'til you make it"?  Those who receive the kind of help that propels them into a position for which they are clearly unsuited, more often than not make the lives of those around them sheer terror!  But, that's another story.  My point here is that for those of us who are in fact prepared; who are ready, willing and able to accept and assume the role at hand, should not be abashed about 1) making our interest known 2) indicating that interest to the right people (some co-workers will sabotage your efforts if they get wind of them) and 3) graciously accept the help you receive.  It may be in a simple word of encouragement/inspiration or a tip or a lead or a recommendation or a reference or a definite connection!  Then, 4) show up and apply yourself to that for which you have been preparing all this time!  And, for heaven's sake 5) please turn around and say thank you!

There's a saying, "Favour ain't fair," referring, I believe, to God's favour upon His children in the many aspects of their lives.  There are some inexplicable ways in which He works out things in the interest of His children, sometimes defying reason, and making them come out on top.  And, there's no point in arguing about it.  It just is.  I believe in God's favour.  I have experienced it oh so many times.  But, His word admonishes us to keep from being slothful; if a man doesn't work, he shouldn't eat; honour Him with the first fruits of our increase - and so on.

So, yes, these days, I find I'm graciously accepting help in this regard.  I try to keep myself in "ready" mode.  Y'know?  "Just in cases." And,  I'm humbly acknowledging and accepting God's favour - His helping hand.  Again, no point in arguing with it.  It just is.


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Eyes Have It

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to engage in conversation with a stranger - a white fellow.  No details necessary.  The point of the reference is to say that he told me a story about a certain reaction of a friend of his who was, to put it this way, not inclined to Blacks.  You see, he had another friend, a Black girl, whom he had the pleasure of introducing to his white lady friend.  As he did so, he related, the eyes of his white lady friend glossed over; like they just...changed.  He asked whether I'd ever seen that.  I told him no.  I don't recall ever witnessing something like that.  He said he knew for sure that his white friend was uncomfortable when, in addressing his Black friend, said, "Oh!  Your eyes are beautiful!"  And that was pretty much all she'd said to her the whole time.  He then went on to explain to me that her eyes were kinda like those of "Aunt Jemima" - big and round.  He got the sense that they stood out as such a strong feature, that her sole comment was on the very thing that helped make her feel uncomfortable; as if she couldn't help herself.  And, in an even more telling reaction, her eyes "glossed over".

I'm still not a hundred percent certain of what that looks like.  What I can say is that I believe I saw something pretty close to it the other day.  At least, something that made me immediately think of that story.

Recently, I had the occasion to talk with, let's call her, a saleswoman.  Now, by this, (and having gone through some form of Mary Kay Independent Consultant training and what not), I have a fairly good idea of the tiered approach, and a whiff of the psychology that's usually used, in scenarios such as these.  They don't tell you cost up front; you are asked to share; you get involved emotionally; you bond; you invest time.  And the more time and emotional involvement, the harder it is to walk away - the more guilt you are likely to feel if you do. Or so they hope!

Anyway, as Ms. Lady went through her spiel - and I'm participating because 1) I was curious about their offer 2) I've convinced myself I need to do new things to help me with material for my writing if nothing else 3) I had the time - I became engaged.  And I shared - willingly.  Then, it got to cost.  There was no way of telling that I was shocked at the prices that jumped out at me.  (Ever been invited to a Direct Buy session?  Kinda like that.)  So, when she asked what option would I prefer, I coolly answered, "I need some time to think about this."  Ladies and gentlemen?  That was when I saw what could only be described as her eyes glossing over.  We were about two hours in, and here I was, about to make her time add up to naught.

Her pleasant facial expression - the one that had accompanied the offer for coffee or tea; the one that met me at the door; the one that had listened so intently as I'd "shared" - had disappeared a the sound of "need some time."   As I told her, I'd had no idea of the cost - I had asked and (of course), no one had mentioned it.  But, now that I know, and it's more than I expected, I would have to think about it.  I held to my position and she was not amused.  Like, seriously.  I have never before experienced such an about-turn in someone's demeanour, countenance, approach and general disposition in such a short time.  I reminded her that I was assured there'd be no obligation after the information session.  She held that that was true but.  She couldn't grasp that I needed to think about forking out more than I'd expected; I couldn't grasp that she couldn't. I still held to my position and explained that once I had some time to think about it, I might get back in touch in a few days or something.

Well, she excused herself, saying that she was going to tell her superior that I was leaving.  In short, he made me a seriously discounted offer.  That was not the reason for my hesitation.  (I had had the impression that what they had on paper was cast in stone.) As it turned out, it was a heck of an offer!  I took it.

But, the eyes, man!  The eyes!  They just...changed.  The light went out; the smile disappeared.  Her face got dull.  Her expression one of incredulity.  (Someone said the other day that a certain politician's smile doesn't reach his eyes.  I'd thought of that then, too.)  She wasn't smiling at that point, but, her effort to remain pleasant was betrayed by that look of consternation/disbelief/incredulity and, kinda bordering a bit on anger. (Well, maybe reading a bit much into it?  Nah.  Just enough.)

And, after I accepted?  Yep.  The smile came back.  This time, gentility.  I kid you not.  It came to me after that I should've asked whether I was the first person to say no; to ask for time to make a decision.  It was not a distinction for which I was seeking but, based on her reaction, it sure looked that way. 

They say, "In vino, veritas." (In wine, [there is] truth).  That episode reminded me that truth lies within.  And the eyes have it.


Saturday, 8 October 2011

"At Water's Edge"

Water splashing at my feet
Wind blowing salty air in my face
My body is bathed in the
Calm, cool, peaceful surroundings of nature.
An atmosphere of tranquility.
The seagull cries
I hear the noise of the water
As heavy waves hit the rocks.

I sit on one, remembering those days
When I used to wish I could enjoy this enchantment
With you.

Oct. 1, 1987