When asked about it the day before, I requested that there be no special party or hullabaloo on my last day at work. I asked that the hubs and I have a joint one when we go. No special something just for me. The flowery speeches and attention mostly make me want to slide into a hole.
But, on my last day, when two of the girls I manage disappeared for an hour or so, and came back with two big cartons of bakery cookies, it was clear that this was going to go down like much of my time at the office: I can say what I will, people will smile and nod, and then mostly they will just do as they see fit.
In the afternoon, with no notice whatsoever, (again, typical) most of the staff gathered around a table full of cookies and snacks to fare me well. Unlike I feared, it wasn’t awkward and it wasn’t embarrassing. I was so touched by the kind and genuine words that some of the staff had for me.
A girl that I managed, who I wasn’t quite sure some days how she actually felt about me, talked about my good work and the policies and improvements I made for the domestic office. Like the legal referral policy, and the sections in the contract about refugee rights and employee treatment. She said none of that would have happened if I hadn’t come, and that I will live on in the organization through those things.
Another gal I managed spoke about how much I care for the people in the work. How I always ask after people and if someone is sick I’ll go get them medicine, even if I’m sick. Another person said how I never got wrapped up in whatever else or silly dramas were going on, I’d always work and keep working. One of the managers from another department said how I’ve been a benefit to everyone and that truly I am a daughter of God. Mama M (previously mentioned here) talked about how I was a good supervisor, because I wouldn’t just decide things. I’d always go to each member of the team, get opinions and feedback, and respected the thoughts and ideas of others even though I was the manager.
Faith (previously mentioned here) said that there are many people who have come through our organization over the years and that there are only a few who are special and that people will remember. She said I am one of the special ones, that I have affected the organization, and I am one of the ones they will not forget.
Another refugee member of staff, who had his third child die two hours after being born just 3 short weeks ago, said that I am very humble and simple and that we should all be more like this because life is short and so we should all be simple and caring like this.
I was able to say a few words of thanks. That it was an honor to work with all of them and that I will keep praying for them and for the work. Because it is very difficult work, but it is not in vain because we are being a witness through the church, brining in the kingdom, and it is good, important work and I believe God will bless their efforts. I also said that I’m still around, they’re my friends, and I look forward to still stopping by. And I am available if there or questions about my department or something I can help with.
About halfway through, one of the gals I manage piped up and explained to everyone that I’m not leaving to find another job. She wanted to make sure everyone on staff knew this. She told everyone how I stayed late to help with Adult Ed, how I was doing so many things at work, and that now I am sick and need to rest. It was unexpected and unprompted, and I was so touched that she wanted to explain that to everyone. She didn’t want them thinking I was resigning for better-paying work or another reason. She wanted people to know about the work I’d done and wanted to protect my character. It was so unexpected and kind.
After being forced to eat every variety of cookie, what naturally followed was a big, hilarious photoshoot with everyone. It was light and fun and sweet.
Afterwards I lingered outside with Mama M, a refugee, widow, and mother of 5 for awhile. She said again, as she’d said many times previously that week, how bad it is that I won’t be working there anymore. But she understands. She thanked me again for a few things I’ve helped her out with in the last year and a half. She knows we were very happy to. She’s a dear friend and she knows that.
We were chatting and she launched into a monologue of sorts—a very Sudanese thing to do. She said how much she loves and appreciates the hubs and I. Then she said, “God has a great plan for my life. He brought you two here to help me during this time. Really I cannot express myself.” She said that even her (teenaged and twenty-something) children told her that God brought the two of us here during this time for her.
I don’t pretend to know God’s “why,” or where and how he works things together or leads the way he does. But it says a lot about her faith that she genuinely believes that we have been the Lord’s provision for her life during this time. She finished with, “You really love me, I know. I know you love me, really.”
Let me go ahead and climb down from this pedestal before I fall off…but, man, I don’t think those are words I’ll ever forget. It does make all of it feel worth it. For the people I came to love, to know that I love them…really.
I am very grateful that I still get to keep my finger in the pot for now. Our friend who is a leader in his refugee community helps members of his community write letters to the UNHCR. I’m still helping him with his English and editing these letters. I’ll still help with Adult Ed. And, as I promised one of the gals I manage at least 40 times, I’m still going to pop in at least once a week to chat and catch up.
They are my people, my friends, and even though I’m stepping back, I’m still planning to love, listen, and care as long as we’re still around.
*Keep an eye on this space. Now that I have more time and mental energy, I plan on getting back to blogging regularly again. Thanks for stopping by!