Have you ever been faced with something totally unexpected and out of the norm? One where you were challenged, but also, maybe, where simply by your presence, you challenged others? It’s scary but exhilarating at the same time, right?
We all face this at some point in our lives, or at least most of us do. If you haven’t, let me tell you a story (somewhat redacted, but that’s an author’s prerogative).
Years ago, an organization I was a part of was asked if anyone was willing to fill in for a few months overseas for someone getting married. The entity requesting rushed the paperwork, and this was a quick, “We need someone ASAP, know anyone?” ask of our leadership. Since I was between positions at the time, my name came up, and I volunteered to go, primarily because it was different, and I figured, if nothing else, I would learn some new skills.
About a week or so later, I found myself in Germany where I got a call, in the airport, no less, that there was an issue with me being there. It seems there was a mistake in the paperwork, and the organization asking for help failed to fill out some key fields, one of which was that they were expecting a man, not a woman, to fill the role. They had no provisions for a woman; they would be out in the hinterlands and didn’t have accommodations for women. They had never had to work with women before either. Since I had just landed, I asked if they wanted me to hop back on a plane and head home and was told no, as they had already allocated the funds for me being there.
I took the job, and it was a learning experience for both myself and the people I worked with for those three months. In fact, after my three months of assistance was up at the exit interview, the head of the organization told me he fully expected me to fail; in fact, he had even intentionally put stumbling blocks in my way to prove the point that women didn’t belong. He apologized and said he was wrong; that the success the organization had achieved while I was there was due in part to the role I played.
I have no illusions that other people were forever changed, but I was. The experience taught me that you can survive anything for a few months. It taught me that a good attitude where you expect to succeed gets you farther than you ever thought possible. I learned that I can handle a lot more than I thought I could. I also learned that angels walk among us who can change hearts and minds and appear like ordinary humans otherwise.