This week in the United States we celebrate a holiday called “Thanksgiving.” This holiday, like all others, has its traditions. In addition to the traditional food celebration, it is often touted as the perfect time to give thanks for all of the blessings we have in our lives. I have heard thanks given for good health, good food, having a job, even having your favorite team in the championship. But most of the blessings given focus on the people in our lives and I am sure that just about 100% of the time those blessings are conferred to another person that we are grateful to have in our lives, who have made our lives pleasant, have done us a kindness or otherwise made a positive impact on us.
This Thanksgiving I would ask you to expand your thinking and include those that would not ordinarily make the cut. How would you feel about including that boss that fired you? Or that girl that spread rumors about you? How about the friend that betrayed you or the guy/girl who ended their relationship with you and broke your heart? What about the person that just totaled your car? Or the illness your body carries? Anyone who has hurt you or betrayed you – especially family. All of those people and events that would never, ever, be considered for a spot on the “I am thankful for” list.
I can hear you now…”What, Deb? Have you lost your mind? I will never forgive “ABC” for doing “XYZ” to me. I was hurt, it was painful, I felt so betrayed”, etc. etc. And of course, if that is the response you have to my request, it is understandable. But remember, this is a blog about Peace through Perspective. So let me give you some perspective and perhaps you can attain a little peace over this issue.
Is there anyone left on the planet who has not heard the phrase “Everything happens for a reason?” Probably not. It is often the phrase we use when something unexplainable happens. They are supposed to be magical words that somehow make a terrible situation bearable. That phrase though is really hard to say when strong emotions are present. Some of us will wrack our brain, looking for “why” something happened to us and if we can find that “why”, the phrase is easier to digest. But if we cannot find the “why” it is harder to accept the “Everything happens for a reason” explanation. That is when we often tumble into discontent, annoyance, and even hatred, especially when we are blindsided by the experience.
Twenty years ago I had a job that I really loved. I was a trainer in a prestigious law firm, computers were just starting to make their way into the business world and I was at the forefront of a new and exciting technology that everyone had to learn. As a natural born teacher, this was like heaven to me. Not only was I able to learn something brand new, but I could teach others and get them excited as well. The perfect combination for me. My job seemed secure, I was making good money and I was happy. I could see myself at that job for a very long time.
Or at least that was my plan. The firm hired an additional trainer to assist with all of the new work that would be coming my way. On her first day, she went through a standard orientation and was kept in a conference room the entire day. I did, however, make sure to have lunch with her to get acquainted. I spent exactly one hour with her, I walked her around, showed her the site of “our” new planned training room and then returned her to the conference room. The next day, she never came back.
Everyone (including me) was at first puzzled and then concerned. Where was she? The entire week passed. No word. I was interviewed and asked what I said to her. In truth, I said nothing out of the ordinary. I had no idea why she never returned but I had the feeling everyone was blaming me! The following Monday I barely made it through the front doors when I was approached by the Head of Personnel and escorted to her office. I was told that the other trainer would not be returning because I made her uncomfortable. I was told that she accused me of calling my Supervisor a “dragon lady” and that I called the Administrator of the firm “an alcoholic”. WOW! My mind went numb and all I could do was stare at her. Good grief! Total lies! With barely an opportunity to deny this or even say two words, I was fired and escorted from the building. I wasn’t even allowed to get my personal items. I was in total shock. How could this happen? Why would anyone do this to me? I lost my substantial year-end bonus that was being paid out that week and I lost a job that I really loved. Totally unfair and completely out of my control. Three weeks to Christmas. As a single mother of two, I don’t have to tell you how daunting things seemed.
I will not give you a blow by blow description of everything that unfolded in the eight weeks it took to land on my feet again. It is an awesome story and will be told another time. Just let me just say that during this period, I was led to the decision to work for myself and own my own company. It was a scary step but I really felt compelled to do it. So I did. I created a company to teach software applications and I became successful beyond my wildest imaginings. Things fell into place for me with such ease that I had to pinch myself to be sure it was all real.
A little over a year after all of this occurred and life had settled down nicely into “all is well” once again, I was at a seminar with a client when I heard a familiar voice behind me. IT WAS HER! The girl who lied about me and got me fired! Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe. I froze for just a moment, but then I knew what I had to do. I could NOT let this opportunity pass me by. I HAD to say something to her. I felt compelled to do so. So I turned around and the words just came out. I said “Karen? Karen Smith is that YOU? (not her real name — Lord knows after 20 years I do not remember her name). “Karen” looked up and acknowledged that I was correct. Forging ahead, nonstop I then began: “I am so happy I got to see you again. Do you remember me? I’m Debbie. Remember? I worked at (the law firm) were you were hired and never came back after that first day. You remember, don’t you? You told all those terrible lies about me and I got fired – right before Christmas – did you know that?” She just looked at me in shock not uttering a word. (Heaven knows what was running through her mind!) I continued: “Well, I just want to take this opportunity to thank you for my heart. It was rough for a few weeks but had you not done that to me, I would never had had the courage to start my own company, make all this incredible money and work with people like this wonderful woman here (pointing to my client, who thankfully had become a friend and knew the story). My life and career are amazing!” “Really,” I continued. “I don’t know why you did what you did but I am so grateful to you and I just wanted you to know. I hope you have a wonderful time here at the seminar.” And then I turned around. She had never uttered a word the entire time and she took another seat within minutes – LOL)
Why did I do that? Well, (I admit with a sheepish smile) – a lot of it was ego. I wanted her to know that I knew what she did, that she lied and that her lies gotten me fired. But what surprised me was how honest I was in thanking her. Truly, had she NOT done what she did, I would probably still be at that law firm doing my 9 to 5. Whatever her motivation in making up those lies, she was an instrument of God, the universe, whatever you want to call it. In confronting her, everything became clear and I realized that when I do not move forward of my own accord, someone (or something) comes along to do it for me, a catalyst, so to speak. I was able to see, in retrospect, other events in my life that had happened unfairly ultimately did move me along “the path” and I felt guided and cared for by something much larger than I. Unfortunately, when someone else does it, it hurts a hell of a lot more than if we had just done it ourselves. But hey, we all have to learn somehow and learn I did. Be open to the “Blessing in Disguise.”
That law firm experience was not the first time something bizarre had happened to move me along nor was it the last. This type of event has played out so many times in my life, I’ve lost count and the memories have blurred. Mostly, the memories blur because I no longer place any importance on it anymore. I came to terms and found the perspective about the situation – a very freeing moment. My story here is about a job but the same applies to relationships and other areas of your life too. Each person we meet and everything we do or experience has a purpose and part of the goal in life is to figure out what that is. We learn a lot about ourselves in the process, if we allow the process to happen. Be open to growth and the rest takes care of itself!
So yes, there is ALWAYS a reason that something happens. I have hundreds of stories that bear that phrase out. I have become completely convinced. We always want to know the reason WHY and, as in my story above, sometimes we get to know (if we are alert enough to see). Sometimes the reason becomes obvious within moments, others can only be seen in retrospect. The trick really, is to know that if what happened was perfect in retrospect, then we would save ourselves a lot of headaches and heartaches if we just realized it at the beginning! I am working on that very thing right now. Knowing that as the unpleasant happens, and fear sets in to paralyze you, everything really is perfect and it all works out. It has to. We are guided at all times and never left alone, no matter how the ego and your thoughts would like you to think so.
So…who will YOU be thankful for this Thanksgiving? Can you find a person in your life (past or present) that has taught you a valuable lesson or hurt you to the point where you (hopefully) grew and matured from the pain? Someone who knocked you down so you could have the satisfaction of getting back up again? Add them to your “I am grateful for” list and mean it. Truly, they had a purpose and hopefully you both gained from the experience. I would love for you to share your story.
I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving! May each of you continue to be blessed each and every day.