Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Broken, Part 2: A Mother-Minister Speaks About Love on Mother's Day

Bronwyn was speaking at her Church on Mother's Day - so Dad and the sisters made our way to Calgary early that morning to hear her. What follows is in part taken from her message and in part the thoughts that it provoked deep in my soul, so that it's taken me all this time to be able to sort through them and articulate them with some level of coherence.

The text she chose was chapter 17 of the book of First Kings, in the Old Testament. The story is of the great prophet Elijah, who had run afoul of the foreign Queen Jezebel and her weakling husband King Ahab for passing on the decree from God that because of all the worship of Jezebel's idol, Baal, which was spreading unimpeded throughout Israel, God was going to cause no rain to fall for a period of time.

That period of time ended up being three years.

Because Jezebel was determined to have Elijah's head God sent him to seek refuge, first at the brook Cherith and, when that dried up, then to a town named Zarephath, which was under the domination of the country of Sidon. There he would meet a widow, whom God had told to feed him.

The country where Jezebel came from ...

As Bronwyn was unfolding the story for us, my mind paused at this point. If that had been I, I would have wanted to run in exactly the opposite direction to the home of my declared enemy! However, Elijah obeyed - hiding in plain sight, as it were, waiting for the rich widow to show up.

But when the widow appeared she was scrabbling around looking for twigs for firewood in the land that had received no rain for so long and consequently was in a state of famine and emergency. Elijah called out to her, "Would you please give me a little water to drink?"

Amazingly, this exhausted woman started to head off to get water for the stranger. And as she walked away, Elijah called out, "And also, could you bring me a little bread to eat as well?"

I can just picture the beleaguered woman rounding back on the prophet. "As the Lord your God lives," she began, "I don't have anything baked. All I have left in my pantry is about a handful of flour and a little oil in a jar. As a matter of fact, what I was doing when you saw me was gathering a few sticks of wood so that I could make a small fire and cook one last little loaf for my son and me. After we've eaten it, we are going to prepare to die."

She said, "The Lord your God," I thought to myself. One of two things must have occurred in order for the woman to have responded that way. Either Elijah was easily identifiable as an Israelite to this woman, and she distinguished between her local deity, Baal, and Elijah's God, J'hw'h - the name so sacred, so precious, Bronwyn said, that it should only be breathed with great reverence. This is the God that this mother at breaking point invoked as indisputable assurance that what she was telling this stranger was true.

But what about the other option - God had told Elijah that He had already ordered a widow to feed him. When Elijah asked the woman for water she went to get it because she knew what it was to be downtrodden and in need of help. But when he asked for bread, she must have recognized him as the man that God had told her to feed. "Feed some man?" she must have thought scornfully when God gave her the command. "I don't even have food to feed my son!" And so with all that emotion building in her in response to the divine order, with all that desperation at the thought of her and her son's unquestionable death due to starvation, she let loose on Elijah.

I can imagine Elijah just grinning. "Ha! This is my rich widow!" he might have thought to himself. "Don't worry," he said to her kindly. "Do everything you've already planned to do. But first make me a little cake and bring it to me; and when you've done that, make one for yourself and your son. And this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, promises: your flour will not run out, and neither will your jar of oil ever empty, until the day God sends rain to the earth."

And so she did.

And so He did.

It tells us that she and Elijah and her household ate for many days.

And if the story were in a fairytale book, the mother and the son would have lived happily ever after or at least for many years.

But life isn't a fairytale, is it? One day Elijah returned to the woman's house only to find her beside herself. She was clutching her son to her breast, her son who had suddenly taken ill and had died. When she saw the prophet her sorrow and despair found their voice: "What have you against me, O man of God?" she wailed. "You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!"

I guess that because we are so conscious of our shortcomings, this is a natural response for us - What did I do wrong? And in my mind's ear I heard the words of a young father, a godly man whose infant daughter was very ill, gasping for air, almost blue in the face. "O God!" he cried out. "If there is some sin in my life ... if you are trying to teach me a lesson ... this child cannot understand that. O God, please deliver her!"

I thought how very often I have the same visceral reaction to calamity. What am I being judged for - what have I done that I am receiving this punishment? 

As Bronwyn read this part of the passage my knee-jerk reaction was What on earth was the sin the mother was alluding to that was so bad she thought it was punishable by the death of her son?

What did Elijah have to say about her sin?


He wasted no time on what was not important to the matter at hand. He simply said to the mother, "Give me your son." And he carried the lifeless body of the child upstairs to the room where he himself had been lodging.

What? No wringing out a confession and making sure the widow was right with God before dealing with the dead child? No minimizing the sin to make her feel better or aggrandizing it so that the woman would realize the depths of her depravity?

No - he lay the child's body on the bed and in the privacy of the room he cried out to God: "O LORD my God, have You brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?"

And with that he stretched himself three times over the child's inert body, beseeching, "O LORD my God, let this child's life come into him again."

As Bronwyn told this part of the story she stretched her arms out like someone would if they were to cover a smaller body with their own.

Just like someone whose arms were stretched out on a cross.

And life was given back to the boy. Elijah took him downstairs to his mother and all he said was, "See, your son lives."

No lecture, no sermon, no "now let's get you right with God." He didn't have to do any of that. The mother, who I am certain would have been hugging her son like she would never let him go, said to him with a heart of gratitude and love, "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth."

And she believed.

When I came to God I was eight years old. My Mum had taken me to a play being performed by some visiting actors from America. It was called "The Six Who Died." To cut straight to the chase, one girl, Jenny, went to heaven; the other five were sent to hell.

It literally scared the hell out of me. We went home and Mum explained to me again the plan God had executed for me, for each one of us, to be with Him. She explained that all of us have fallen short of God's glory, to the point that He could no longer really associate Himself with us. But He loved us and wanted us to be with Him; and so He came down to this earth, taking on the form of a man. Jesus was all God, and all man, all at the same time. And because He was both, He was the only one who could bridge the gap between God and man, bringing both together again.

He did that when He stretched His arms out on the cross, covering all of us and all our sins with His own body offered as the ultimate sacrifice to bring us to God, to bring us eternal life.

That evening I knew that I had to have that life, because I was terrified of the alternative.

It was a couple of decades later that I stopped fixating on the horror of death and damnation as the reason to follow God. It took all that time, and several difficult circumstances in my life, to start slowly understanding that the ingredient I had managed to skip over somehow was the key ingredient: that God LOVED me and that's why He went to such an extreme as to sacrifice His own life for me. It wasn't just that He was keeping me out of hell; even more than that, it was that He wanted me to be with Him and enjoy Him forever, as the catechism says.

It is His great love for me that finally made me want to commit myself to Him. And what I discovered was that perfect love truly does cast out fear - not that my love is perfect, but His is; and when I allowed myself to luxuriate in that love, my fear of death and hell disappeared.

That's what this widow, this desperate mother, experienced on this day. Let's not forget that for the longest time, on a daily basis, she had been receiving tangible proof that God cared for her - there was always food on the table despite the drought! But when her son died, all that was forgotten in her overwhelming fear that whatever her sin was had caught up to her. God through Elijah showed her that it wasn't that at all. He showed her that He loved her and her son. And it was the manifestation of this love that finally broke down her defences, that finally broke her heart.

And as that young father prayed for his daughter years ago the disease that been present for so many terrifying nights was arrested; my airwaves were opened and I was able to breathe freely and calmly again. The illness has never returned.

What God wants from us is that we love and trust Him, and that we in turn show His love to others. It doesn't seem too much to ask, to me.

Bronwyn drew her message to a close by pointing out that this restoring of a dead son to his mother is the first resurrection reported in the Bible ... What a mother's day that would have been!

One of the songs that is going to be sung at my funeral (if you're planning on coming, plan on singing!) is "Sitting at the Feet of Jesus", because these lyrics speak directly to my life:

Sitting at the feet of Jesus,
I would look upon the past;
For His love has been so gracious,
It has won my heart at last.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

"The Spot"

All the tables in the TH have names. There's The Island (because no man is); The Hug (because you feel embraced by the chairs); The Looking Glass (the table next to the largest window) - you get the idea.

And so on Friday when I saw the two tiny wicker chairs - with elephants on them, no less! - I knew exactly where they could go ...

...under the counter, tucked in behind the comforting back of the chair at Limbo Table (don't ask)! I found my old picture of the kids' tea party and our little nook was created.

The next morning, when my Maya came to fill the sugar bowls and Splenda wheelbarrows, I asked her and her dad if they had any ideas about a name. In just a couple of moments Scott said, "The Spot."

"Why?" I asked.

"Because, like the kids who will sit here, it's small but very significant. Plus it'll soon be the spot to be!"

Scott's words were almost prophetic: I have never had that many kids come in to the TH in one morning - and they all loved The Spot! What a wonderful day it was ...

My beautiful Aneliese, the child I had in my mind's eye when I saw these chairs, was the first child to walk in and sit at The Spot. It turns out that this would also be her last visit to "Miss Karyn's". We will miss you so much, honey -
please come back to visit! xo

Hayden's and Mateya's dad, Aaron, helped
build the TH. How nice to have them
at The Spot this morning!

Aneliese, Mateya and Hayden checking
out the view from the verandah ...

Sammi and Sela with
their own special friends ...

Now THIS is exactly what I always
envisioned for the TH ...

Mona and the TH's own helper, Maya
- Scott's girls! -
closed out the day at The Spot

Shot of the day: Real men DO drink tea!
Isaac with the pirate tea pot, the cat tea cup
and the antique caboose

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Guest Chef's Birthday Event

My youngest nephew, Oliver, had mentioned to me over the years that he would like to come and work at Nilgiris. "You're too young," I would always reply. "You have to be a minimum of 12 years old to work for a family member - 14 if it's a non family member."

Oliver turned 12 years old today; between us, Bronwyn and I cooked up a scheme to get him to be our surprise Guest Chef this long weekend Saturday. I stopped by their place on Thursday night and invited them all for cinnamon rolls on Saturday morning, as they were going to come out to visit with Dad on the Saturday. Bronwyn said they would be there at 10 a.m.

In the mean time, Caite had designed this ad, which ran in the Three Hills Capital:

When Oliver got to the TH, all that was written on the menu board was

"Happy 12th B-Day, Guest Chef Oliver!"

He sank into one of the Hug's chairs, speechless.

We bustled him back to the kitchen in a minute or two, however: he had a long day ahead of him ...

Ready for the day ...
Soon he was stirring chili and rolling out the puff pastry for the apple puffs.  He whipped up the Skor cheesecake and filled the trays with toppings for both the chili and the banana splits. Right before lunch started, he stuck the ad - which someone had printed off for us! - on the door.

We were ready to start the lunch rush!

William and David, with their parents Lori and Andy, came out from Calgary for the occasion. So did the TH's Andy, who got to renew his acquaintance with a number of dear old friends - Sharon and Vernon, Morley and Donna, Brenda, Don McD, and our family but especially Elliot. Andy and Elliot covered a lot of musical ground as they visited together.

Making the Skor cheesecake
A particular treat for me was that Deborah came in and worked the dining room so I could slip down to the local bookstore with Oliver and Elliot. There was nothing much to be found that would grab the attention of 12 and 14-year-old boys who read extensively, however; so we returned to the TH, to the reserved purple chairs and iced lattes created for us by Deb.

Oliver was supposed to be off duty at 4 p.m.; but people coming in for dinner wanted him to serve them and so he did.

The sous chef and the Chef ... that sous
chef sure knows what she's doing!
Thanks, Lori, for the picture.

What a wonderful day! Happy Birthday to the apple of my eye and a fantastic Guest Chef to boot!

Taking the order for William and Elliot, David and Andy.
Lori's taking the picture ...
Offering toppings for the chili:
mango salsa, sour cream,
guacamole and fresh cilantro

Feature of the day:
Chili with cornbread

Elliot and Andy discussing their
mutual passion, music ...

Stealing a moment with a favourite aunt

So happy to see each other!

Deborah takes charge ...

... so we could have a coffee!

WIth Granny and Aunt Helen
Oliver's B-split toppings:
sprinkles, choc chips, pineapple,
toasted pecans

Supper at the TH ...

We loved having you at the TH;
come back again to work ANY time!

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Good Night's Sleep


Twenty-five bunk beds.

Extra money for sheets and pillowcases - something I had not dared hope for.

Bunk bed #22

Fifty kids who will know that people who haven't even met them care about them, that every one of them is precious.

"Thank you" seems so inadequate. From the 3-year-old who dropped her nickel and penny into the "bed jar" to the people who bought full bunk beds.

From Rand in Toronto to the neighbour across the road.

Thank you. We'll be getting the bank draft this week and sending off the money, and as soon as we get pictures, we'll get them posted.

Someone asked me why I bothered when there are millions of other kids who are in just as bad if not worse situations. 

I've actually thought about this a lot since May 2007, when I met Alex, the South African boy who changed my entire life. Alex is a story all on his own; and what I have concluded through my encounters with Alex is that I might not make a difference to every child in the world, or every child in a country or a village or even a street.

But I can make a difference to that child. And when that child's life is impacted, if he or she in turn can be a help to two people and they in turn do the same, pretty soon entire communities can be blessed.

Bunk bed #25
That's what you all did. You threw the pebble into the pond and as it skipped over the water, wherever it brushed against the surface it sent ripples sparkling in ever-larger circles until the whole pond was ablaze with light and energy.

Very soon, our kids in the tiny Children's Home in the little village off the coast of South India will be lifted one step up from where they have been for the past six years. And - who knows? - maybe, for some of them, that first step will be the launching pad to great things in their futures.

To be continued in the months and years and generation to come ...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Broken, Part 1

I was sitting with a friend when we spied her across the crowded room. We both called to her but she had her back partially turned to us and didn't hear. I charged over and dragged her back to our table.

We talked and laughed. We caught up with each other - how busy we had all been, one of us with her career, one of us with her calling, one of us with her causes. The friend I was with originally had to leave; we vowed that somehow we would all get together this summer.

The remaining two of us kept chatting lightly. Yes, I was still happy at Carswell and thankful for the opportunities I received from working at this amazing company. No, she had given up most of her volunteering - moving to a new, larger, home had taken any extra energy she had had to spare.

"How's your son?" I asked brightly.

She became utterly still. Haltingly, through suddenly frozen lips, came the words no mother wants to have to hear herself say.

"He ... died six months ago."

Then she simply stood there in front of me, trembling slightly, so little, so alone, as I stared at her in disbelief. Her blue eyes pleaded with me silently as if asking me to tell her it was just a dream, it was only a bad dream, that she could wake up now.

And silently I opened my arms and she stepped into my fierce embrace and began to shake.

We clung together in the middle of that bustling hall and slowly words started to emerge. Massive heart attack ... fiancee hadn't heard from him ... hotel security ... too late  ... all alone.

"I can't tell people yet. Only a few people ... I haven't unpacked in my new place yet. It seems so unimportant when living itself seems so unimportant.

"I don't have anybody now. There's nothing to live for."

"There's you," I murmured. 

How did she get through Christmas? Through Mother's Day? I wondered to myself. How does she get up in the morning?

And during these next few days I have thought of other people for whom I care deeply: the daughter whose mother is fading away little by little in extended care, whose hands cling to hers on Mother's Day ...

The six-year-old son who walks, all by himself, up to his father's coffin and gazes solemnly at the picture of the man whose absence will be such a prevailing force in his life ...

The man whose existence is threatened because of a blood clot the size of a pin prick ...

The frightened girl whose brother is assaulting her and whose mother turns a blind eye ...

The mother, 8 1/2 months pregnant, who stops by one morning to tell me that she is going to the funeral director to discuss the burial of her unborn son, who will die within the first few hours of his birth ...

The father, enmeshed with alcohol and despair, looking in an empty fridge for milk to pour on his kids' cereal ...

The devoted man who had buried his wife and has now found deep happiness with someone who is in turn devoted to him, but who occasionally weeps at the loss of what once was ...

The beautiful woman whom we all can see but who is still searching for herself ...

The sister who is punished for not punishing her father ...

The children who have had their families washed away by a wave that comes
for them every night in their dreams ...

The woman who started with a pain in her back just months ago and whose body is now for the most part confined to a wheelchair, bending over to sip wine through a straw ...

The son who comes upon his father's body, hanging heavy from a tree in the bend of the path ...

The man who works late into the night, struggling to find a way to pay his debts and provide for his family ...

The daughter who has been set adrift by the death of her mother, her anchor ...

The single mother whose beautiful, brittle son dances recklessly on the tightrope of his own life while she stands despairing guard below, knowing there will be no net broad enough to catch him should he fall ...

The woman who hears the dreaded C word - twice - and authorizes the carving up of her body to prevent the disease from coming back, from spreading ...

The man in limbo because his wife is here in body but has not been here in mind for almost two decades ...

The father who fights for the life of his perfect, oxygen-deprived daughter and finally, four years later, raises the white flag ...  

The friends who are no longer with us because the pain became too great ...

And this list is just a glimpse of the visible scars. What of the deep brokenness that dwells inside so many people who cross my path and to which I am oblivious?

What if I hadn't asked my friend about her son? When would she have been able to talk about this event that is decimating her very being?

God, give me the eyes of compassion and the ears of sensitivity and the words of comfort and the arms of shelter and the heart of Jesus, broken for me, for each one of these dearly beloved people whose lives intersect with mine.

(Thanks to Cathryn, full of Grace, for the gift of Over the Rhine's CD "The Long Surrender" and the beautiful song "All My Favorite People Are Broken", given to me moments after I had met with my friend.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Where There's a Will ...

"What's going on with the bunk beds?" a number of you have asked me over the last few days. (You'll remember that we had reached 20 bunk beds by last Tuesday night? Click HERE to go back and read that post.)

And then ... I was confronted with the realization that we were now in the last 20% stretch. I HATE this stretch. This is the part that always trips me up in my day job. The last 20% of a goal is so hard. And it was just Wednesday morning.

On the weekend donations in the TH jar got another half a bunk bed. Dad spoke at a little church on Sunday morning and they gave him an honorarium, which he topped up to make a full bunk bed. Debs worked for me because I had to be at a conference and she donated her tips to the BBP.

By the end of Sunday night we had 21 1/2 bunk beds! Three and a half to go, and we started this whole thing only on April 17!

I went back to my conference resigning myself to waiting a week and trying to figure out what we are going to have to do to "close the gap" as my dear director Scott puts it.

And then - Monday morning, I opened up my email and spied a message from Bronwyn. The intriguing subject was "Weekend and William!"

And this is what one of the paragraphs said:

"Oh, by the way, as a result of your blog, a young boy here in Calgary, William N******, raised enough money for a set of bunk beds!!! His Mom volunteers at the church with me and she has been inspired by what you're doing, and has shared the blog with her sons. William is in about grade 3!! I took a photo of him yesterday at church, holding the envelope with a cheque for $200 inside it, and a picture of bunk beds on the front that he drew with crayon. It's pretty cool! So that's another set. I'll send you the photo as soon as I figure out how to transfer it from my phone to the computer."

What?  WHATTTTT???!!!

I phoned Bronwyn and asked her to give William's mother my phone number. Lori called me early this evening and I asked her what was William's impetus.

It turns out that William, age 8, is in grade 2, but it's a grade 2-3 split. The grade 3 class starts learning about different cultures and William, listening, was intrigued by India. His mother volunteers with Bronwyn at church, and Bronwyn had told her about my blog. So Lori had gone onto RtL to show William some of the pictures of our trips to India. And of course they came across the bunk bed stories.

"It would be neat to buy a bunk bed for the kids," said William to his mother. He decided he wanted to ask the kids at his school if they could each donate a toonie and that would be a bed. Due to school policies around such things, he was not allowed to send out a notice; however, the teachers themselves were moved by the story and William's response, and they took up a collection and gave the proceeds to William to start his bunk bed.

An excellent start indeed! Now William's whole family was excited and got behind this: William, his mom and dad and his little brother, 6-year-old David, went together door to door in their neighbourhood, telling the story of the tsunami kids, telling about his desire to buy a bunk bed for them.

The neighbours came through. And Sweet William gets to buy bunk bed #22!!

An 8-year-old boy who wanted to do something to help other kids went out of his comfort zone and raised $200 to give two other kids in this world a bed to sleep in after six years of being on the floor. Six years - that's about as long as David has been alive ...

William (and family!): Thank you. I'm going to try to make sure they see your picture, see someone who is a kid like them and who loves them and cares about what happens to them.

The Bible tells us that it's more blessed to give than to receive. You have given SO MUCH, William. Not only have you given a bunk bed; you've also given other people the chance to be generous and to share in the blessing. You've given the rest of us motivation and inspiration.

And you've given those kids hope that they are not forgotten, that they matter.

I hope you see so many blessings in your own life that you don't even know WHAT to do with all of them except to share them with other people, just like you did with these kids! God will be able to do great things with you because you are willing to let Him use you to help other people.

You rock!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Small Elephant In The Room

Baby Elephant, in his corner
by the piano and the tea trolley

They all greet him as they arrive and pass him on their way to the bookcase to collect favourite toys or crayons and paper for their visit to the TH. They go over and check on him in between sips of tea from miniature china cups. The smaller ones sometimes just sit there in front of him, looking at him smiling at them. And as they leave they will often hug him, and many of them will drop a little kiss on his sweet trunk.

Baby Elephant, they call him. They talk to him and tell him things, things that sometimes we can't understand although he seems to: they glance at him, eyeball to eyeball, and he's still smiling at them.

Fanta and Ellie

But this morning something truly exceptional occurred. When Aneliese - my beautiful little friend who loves red tea in the blue tea set, whose face lights up at the thought of berries and cream for a treat - arrived for a morning visit with her mama, she collected Ellie and Fanta, the two stuffed elephants who sit in the foyer in my nephew Matthew's tiny rocking chair and welcome all the little visitors who come through the door. They accompanied Aneliese to her table and I think I caught a glimpse of one of them sneaking a little sip of tea when Aneliese wasn't looking ...

The morning got busy and I rushed around doing what I thought was important. Then she called me over.

"Look!" she exclaimed. And there were Ellie and Fanta, trunks entwined, sitting companionably next to Baby Elephant.

"Baby Elephant has friends!" I replied. She nodded vigourously, her face shining, and reached over to pat his trunk.

The thought came to me: why do we as grownups so often tiptoe around the elephant in the room? Why can't we examine it, openly and without guile like my little people do, and treat it as part of the comings and goings of the day? Maybe if we did that, if we weren't threatened by whatever it represents for us, we would realize, like incandescent Aneliese does, that the lonely little elephant needs to be acknowledged, needs a voice and an advocate, needs someone to make sure it has a friend.

And as the little girl bade farewell to the little elephant, I felt like I had been given the gift of a spring sunbeam pushing away the cobwebby obligations of what I thought was urgent for the day and lighting up what truly is important: taking the time to appreciate all creatures great and small.

Thank you, Baby Elephant!

Thank you, Aneliese!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Wedding Rehearsal Dinner

The first call from Margaret came way back in November. "My son's getting married. Would you consider catering the wedding rehearsal dinner? He was a groomsman at Matt's wedding and he LOVED the food you made for that!"

And so, MANY phone calls, a few emails and two in-person visits later, we arrived at today.

I've posted pictures of the behind-the scenes kitchen work before; here is the dining room being transformed.

Elizabeth and Margaret in for a quick
touch-down this morning ...

"Before ..."

Dad setting up chairs - he'd
already done the tables!

Dad cutting the menu cards

Last-minute table check ...

... and it's ready! This is where the
bride and groom would be seated.

The sweet little menu cards,
tucked into each person's napkin

Margaret's place setting

Dan the Renaissance man is for this
occasion assuming his "Celtic fiddler" guise

All the best for a very happy life together,
James and Pamela!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Do You Hear a Hammer and a Saw?!

Dad and Mr Nair talked on the phone today - the mattresses have been ordered and the bunk beds are starting to be made! Dad and Mr Nair are very excited at how this is coming together!

So am I ... As of this moment we are just $40 shy of
                              TWENTY BUNK BEDS!!!

Five bunk beds and $40 to go! And the day's not over yet ...

The girls singing for Dad

If anyone new is reading this, to see where it began, click HERE. To those of you who wrote cheques, I took them all to the bank today! If anyone wants to contribute, please feel free to email me at info@nilgiris.ca .

Thank you, all of you, who have given the gift of these kids having somewhere comfortable to sleep. Thank you for showing them that they have not been forgotten; indeed, that they matter. Thank you for showing them that they are loved.

Mr Nair is travelling right now, but he says he hopes to be back in June, and he will send us pictures!

Sunday, May 8, 2011


To see where it started - just three weeks ago - click HERE.

Only eight to go - thank you, all of you, for your outpouring of love and support for these kids.
Mr G.S. Nair and Dad, drinking
refreshing coconut water in the
little parlour at the Children's Home

Two old friends

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Gift Hidden in the Blue Screen of Death

It happened again, and at the most inopportune time.

I was working on the documents for my quarterly review and pondering this coming year's sales plan - a clean slate, so much potential, a chance of hope and a fresh start - when the fan on my computer kicked up a notch, all the windows froze, and the dreaded blue screen reared its ugly head.

I had thought when I received a new computer at the sales conference that this would all be behind me. At the sales conference itself, when I heard the words from the tech support team, "Your USB port was bent and it was impacting the computer - it's not you; it's the computer!" I quickly gathered up the computer and went outside the room and wept at the gift of those words.

And now, exactly one week later, it was happening again.

I could not, could NOT, bear to hear the words, "Let me guess - technological issues again?"

I tried tech support's phone lines; they were all busy. I sent a couple of emails out from my Blackberry but received no response. In desperation I took a picture with my Blackberry of the blue screen and emailed that out as well.

Then Alex, wonderful Alex, called me back from head office. He had seen the picture and had enlarged it so that he could read what the screen said. He took control of my computer and tweaked a few things. He told me that they had simply installed my old hard drive in a new computer case because they had thought the problem stemmed from the USB port. He would be reimaging a new computer for me.

I rebooted my computer and tried to recreate the data I had lost from my documents. I finally got everything finished and sent in at about 1:00 a.m.

This morning I was literally bracing myself for what was to come when the little red light on my Bberry flashed on. "Call me" was the message in response to an email ("Are you in funnels right now?") I had sent out yesterday afternoon.

I called her back. "It's okay - I sent that message yesterday," I started, when she launched in, cutting me off.

"This is NOT your fault. This was supposed to be taken care of last week. You are NOT to blame. We're going to get to the bottom of this. I've already called and talked with **********. I have kept a record of all the times you have contacted us about the computer. You are NOT shirking your work. We're going to take care of this. Listen to me: This. Is. Not. You."

These are the first words I heard this morning. I had gone to bed at about 2 a.m. dreading the morrow. I had woken up wondering why. I had stood under the shower with the water as hot as I could take it, wishing the coming hours would swirl away just as heedlessly, just as predictably, as the water down the drain at my feet.

The expression "I've got your back" is tossed about a lot these days. But when a person's back feels exposed and has borne the brunt of a few slings and arrows, that person might not be so sure how well protected said back actually is.

This morning, with that phone call, I saw someone who truly had my back. Not one to throw words around casually, she has never said the IGYB statement to me. But she showed me by her actions that she did indeed understand, and that she had taken it to the next level - she had spoken up for me and defended me; and furthermore, she was going to do all in her power to get these computer issues resolved.

I'm waiting for my review call - of all days, there was a fire drill at Corporate office! - but my back is straight, my mind is clear, and my soul is restored.

Words have great power. They can build up or they can destroy a person from the inside out.

And you can also derive great power and strength from simply knowing someone believes you, believes in you. Thank you, Laurie, from the bottom of my heart.