Saturday, January 29, 2011

Humility VII

Just when I begin to take God at work for granted and, even worse, begin to think that I myself am contributing to the harmonious work climate, God shows me who really is in charge of my office -- and it is not me. Those reminders always vividly, even dramatically, take me aback.

On Thursday, I had to transfer an employee to another directorate. Since most employees do not want to transfer out of my division (this is a good thing), I usually am the one to deliver them the bad news. Most express concern. Some express resistance, but, of course, must accept the transfer because the good of the organization is the factor that weighs the strongest. Health is the most frequent reason for transferring individuals out of my division since all my employees must be able to travel internationally.

So, given a situation where an employee had developed some serious health problems, the program manager had made the decision to transfer him to a division doing similar work but not requiring travel. This looked to be an open-and-shut case. The employee did not want to travel and would not sign the annual paperwork, agreeing to travel. No need to pray about this one! Piece of cake! When I met together with the employee and program manager, however, the employee became hostile, demanded that we grant him an exception to policy (which is never done because it would open a Pandora’s box of many people wanting exceptions and we would not have enough travelers to accomplish our work), and implied that he had documents that he had retained on both of us that would make us do whatever he wanted us to do.

Later in the day, he brought a sealed envelope to my secretary. In it was a copy of some personnel correspondence I had had with another employee that, on the surface and out of context, could definitely be misconstrued. He had gotten the file when the other employee’s computer had been broken and the two employees had shared one computer. The correspondence, which was innocent enough but out of context could look embarrassing since it discussed religious issues in personal ways, had been left accidentally on the shared computer. The employee in question, seemingly a docile individual, had retained that correspondence for nearly five years, apparently holding it for a time that he could use it to compel me to do something that he wanted to have done, and the time had come. Blackmail!

The employee had miscalculated. As a rugged individualist from New England, to use Emerson’s archetypal image, I do not accept blackmail. In fact, had I been wavering about perhaps granting an exception, the attempted blackmail sealed the fate of the individual in question: he will be transferred without delay.

Since blackmail is a felony both under US law and under California law, punishable in both cases by heavy fines and imprisonment, I am now confronted with a difficult decision: to prosecute or not prosecute. Employees who blackmail employers under California law generally lose their jobs. The same might happen if I share the situation with our human resources people, which I may have to do for more than one reason, e.g., any potential long-term, post-transfer ramifications, including the possibility that once transferred the employee will release the document to colleagues and my supervisory chain. If I do not share the information with our personnel and legal team, I may end up having lost the opportunity for defense later, but the employee, who is elderly, in poor health, and responsible for a family with serious medical problems, will not lose a job he desperately needs and the salary for which he cannot replicate. Do I take the risk of ultimate professional damage or does the employee get hurt deeply and immediately? Obviously, now God has a more difficult problem to solve for me!

This all happened because I, too, had miscalculated. Even in seemingly small things and things that seem to be life as usual with no difficulties anticipated, I do need God’s help and presence. Not praying about all of it is arrogance. Thinking I can handle any part of it is perfect evidence of that lack of humility and my continuing need to develop more, i.e. a continuing need for continuing conversion.

(Oh, by the way, prayers are welcomed!)

Also posted on 100th Lamb: "Today's Mess."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Finding Doah

My continuing apologies for not being able to deal with graphics on this old computer--my laptop is STILL in computer repair land on the East Coast, and I am told that those experts have not yet figured out the problem nor made a decision what to do. In the interim, Word does work, and so I am hard at work on my next book, in and around travels and real work. I have completed six of nine chapters, and chapter seven is nearly done. As promised, here is an excerpt. It is a just-finished section of chapter 7, which I will post on all my blogs for which the topic is pertinent.

As a child and through his teenage years, our mentally challenged son, Doah, had a habit of slinking off, mainly from curiosity or because he wanted to go somewhere and there was no one to take him at precisely the time he wanted to go. It was not the kind of disappearance that a fully mentally competent child of the same age would make. Rather, it was a matter of marrying “want” with “immediate fulfillment” prompted by naivete and complete trust in the safety and kindness of the surrounding environment associated with the simplicity of mental retardation. Usually, we would find Doah a couple of aisles away in the grocery store, in the backyard on the swings, or at a neighbor’s house. Scarier disappearances, however, did occur, like the time he decided to walk down the middle of Lee Highway, the main thoroughfare in Arlington, Virginiua.

One Sunday morning when Doah was twelve years old but the size of a seven-year-old and with the mental age of a seven year old, I emerged from the shower and could not find him. I checked the entire house. No Doah. I checked the backyard. Empty swings. I checked with the all the neighbors. No visit to their homes that day. Frantic panic set up, and I began walking the streets in our subdivision, calling his name. Neighbors I had never before met told me that they knew Doah. Really? He had been wandering farther afield than I had known. When? I suppose I will never know the answer to that question. At the time, though, I was more interested in how far his wandering might have taken him. I returned home to Donnie empty-handed.

“Why are you losing time by walking all over the neighborhood?” he asked me. “Just think where he is.”

“Thinking” actually referred to what I often knew about my children from unexplainable sources. For example, I occasionally “knew” in advance that one or another would get hurt at school that day, creating a dilemma in that I had no way to tell a teacher to be careful and try to prevent the accident. No teacher would believe me, yet each time the child in question in woulds indeed return home with some minor injury. If I were sitting quietly, thinking about nothing at all, sometimes an image would appear of the child, either where the child was at the moment or what would happen to the child in the immediate future.

“Nothing comes to mind about Doah,” I told Donnie.

“Just calm down and think for a minute,” Donnie advised.

I emptied my mind and, blast!, in came an image of Doah, clothed in white with a blue belt. He was standing, surrounded by white. White everywhere. Well, one can imagine the worst possible scenario from that.

“I think he’s dead,” I told Donnie. “Everything around him is white.”

“What else?” Donnie pressed, knowing that I am one to miss details. “There has to be more. What is he doing? Is he saying anything? Is there anyone else there?”

Ah! I could not see whether or not there was anyone else there, but he was standing and clapping! Clapping? Church!

Although Donnie was agnostic and I atheist, we did allow our children to attend church services if they wished. Doah had taken up recently with a church downtown, about a mile from where we lived. He would get there by bus, or someone would pick him up. If the latter, the van driver would always come to our door, and that had not happened this time. Still, I knew Doah was at the church.

Donnie and I drove to the church apprehensively. What if he were not there? Then what?

I walked in the door and immediately knew I was in the right place. The inside of the church had been painted—all white. I wandered through one of the rooms, heard some singing, and moved in that direction. As I turned the corner, I saw another white-walled room, and there in the front row was Doah, standing and clapping, dressed in white clothes, with his blue money belt around his waist. Thank God!

I do not know how to interpret these out-of-the-ordinary experiences in my past. I find it hard to believe that such “help” would come from something demonic. Yet, clearly most parents do not find their missing children by emptying their minds and allowing an image of the location of their children to enter. In some ways, these images presaged how nowadays I approach contemplative prayer. Perhaps back then they reflected God’s way of dealing with an atheist in the only way she would (or could) accept.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Welcome, 2011!

Wishing everyone a happy new year on the remarkable date of 1/1/11. I managed to get back into an older post and copy out the image. (Where there is a will, there is a way.) I have not been able to peck out as much as I would like on the new book in the past week on this computer, so I am awaiting with great expectancy the return of my own laptop, either repaired or replaced, in a few weeks -- a new start to a new year.

One great thing about Face Book is watching the New Year be embraced in country after country as it approaches our California coastline. We are among the last to welcome the new year, but the advantage to that is we get to enjoy a lot of other celebrations, beginning on the morning of December 31 (which I fortunately had off this year).

As the new year enters, we have had a remarkable change happen. Our little Simone, the feral cat we rescued when we moved nearly two years ago, changed from being aloof and afraid to affectionate. For the last few days, she has been following me everywhere, has nestled beside me on the couch, and has wanted to be petted. I always thought she would domesticate -- I am pretty successful at domesticating feral cats, the key to which is being patient. Two years is a long time to wait, but it looks like at least one little Leaver is entering the new year in great style.

So is Nikolina. She got her leg braces on Tuesday. They are pink! When I am able to post in a normal fashion and add new pictures, I will put a copy of Nikolina in her braces on the right sidebar. In the interim, it is great to see how she likes wearing them and knowing that in a while she will be able to stand and walk. The question asked when she was born in April 2009, will she be able to work, has been answered: Yes, she will!

Wishing a brave new world for all of you in 2011 -- and may it be gentle to you, as well!