"Why me?" had plagued me for the longest time, but I finally got my answer.
| The Big Picture
By Donna Lowich
"Welcome back!" A chorus of greetings from my friends and co-workers buoyed me throughout the day. It was November 2, 1986. I faced the day with a mix of fear and excitement. It was a warm, wonderful greeting, but it didn't alleviate the butterflies fluttering inside me. After all, it was my first day back at work after an absence of exactly one year.
And, what a year it had been: two spinal cord surgeries that paralyzed me from the shoulders down-all I could do at first was shrug my shoulders. After months of hospitalization and intensive physical therapy, I was discharged home, where I continued my therapy program.
Now, it was time for me to put some of that therapy into practical use: I was back at work. My co-workers took turns visiting me that day, and on many days that followed, they came to have lunch with me, gave me their support, and gave me their friendship. "Allow yourself to be loved," is how Helena, one of my longtime friends, co-worker, and lunchtime companion phrased it.
I needed all the encouragement I could get because despite my progress in therapy, things were very different since I was last at work. I no longer was driving, and I was now in a motorized wheelchair. Although I tried to prepare myself to deal with these major changes, the reality of the situation still stung when confronting them on a daily basis. It was harder than I had ever imagined. But nothing was more difficult than trying to provide an answer for myself to the question every human being asks at a time when they feel the most vulnerable, and the least loved: "Why me?"
My job as a corporate reference librarian involved providing information to people in other departments within the company on telecommunications-related topics. I love looking for and (ultimately finding) the answers. "Rush" questions always appealed to me, at least until now. My physical limitations changed all that, forcing me to work slower, do things differently, yet still manage to keep pace with my colleagues who were reference librarians at other locations within the company.
It was a tall order for me to contend with; it was not external pressures, but rather, pressure I put on myself as a part of my effort to get back to where I thought I should be, where I wanted to be. It was difficult for me to look ahead and not think back to how things used to be. But looking ahead was my only option. Hindsight would do me no good now.
Slowly, I adapted to my new rules and developed new ways to get my work done in a complete and timely manner. As time went on, I grew more confident about my abilities to perform my work to my satisfaction.
But, I still couldn't understand why this had happened to me. This was certainly not the way I had envisioned my life. The thought bothered me but fortunately I had positive diversions to keep me from dwelling on the negative: I had my family, my goals, my therapy. It was a recurring thought that nagged at me often but for which I still had no answer.
Life continued, as life always does, no matter what we say or do. As I continued to receive physical therapy, I continued to improve, but the question continued to stay with me. I prayed for answer but none was forthcoming. On more than one occasion, I even editorialized: "Dear God, You are testing the wrong person!" But even that didn't help bring an answer to me.
Gradually, the "Why me?" morphed into another conundrum: if I needed to leave my job as a reference librarian, would I be able to easily switch jobs? Would someone willingly hire someone who needed job accommodations?
In October 2000, fourteen years after I first returned to work following my surgeries, a man walked into the library. He introduced himself: "Hi, my name is Doug. I need some information on ..." He proceeded to list a number of topics that he needed. He further explained:" I need this information because I am developing a new organization that will help us focus on selling software to specific customers."
During the next few weeks, as I provided the information he needed, Doug mentioned he needed someone to provide and organize information for others within his new department I was proud to know that Doug was willing to give me such a wonderful opportunity!
I was truly enjoying my job in my new organization when a year later, I got a call from my friend, Kathy. 'Hey, Donna, I think there's a job that you might like." She paused and continued, "There's a job opening for an information specialist to research and give out information to people with spinal cord injuries."
I could hardly believe it; my interest was immediately piqued. I applied online the next day, and waited for an interview. I was thrilled with the possibility of being able to help others who now are overwhelmed with the same issues that had overwhelmed my family and me, fifteen years earlier. I temporarily forgot about what I would say to Doug about leaving.
At the same time that I was puzzling about what to do about my current job and my possible new job, more events were aligning themselves that altered the path that I thought was going to be mine. The next day, a Friday, before I had a chance to talk to Doug, we received an announcement from Jeanne, our vice-president. She was calling a meeting for our entire organization at 9:30 in the auditorium.
As we gathered for the meeting, I noticed that Jeanne was visibly upset. Her voice trembled a bit as she announced, "Because of industry trends, it has been decided that the Solutions organization is going to be disbanded. Everyone will be blended back into his or her original organization." She hesitated briefly, then continued, "I'm very sorry, everyone."
What terrible news for all of us in the department! We had come together and worked together to make each team and every individual successful in our common goals. Everything seemed to be going so well.
On the way back to our offices, Jeanne and I talked briefly. I wanted to make sure that she knew how appreciative I was that I worked in her department, even though it was only for little more than a year. "Thank you, Jeanne," I said, holding back my emotions as best I could. "Thank you for giving me the opportunity to work with you and all the talented people in this organization. Thanks so very much."
Within a few days, I received a call from Linda, who had interviewed me and who was potentially my new boss. Linda concluded our conversation with the wonderful news: "We would like to offer you the position of Information Specialist."
I knew I wanted to accept the offer, so I went in to tell Doug of my decision. I told him about the events of the past few weeks. As we talked, I told him about my surgeries and paralysis. I ended with, "Do you think this an amazing coincidence?"
Doug replied, "There are no such things as coincidences. If I were you, I would make any necessary life changes and do this." He continued, "I'm a youth minister and deacon at my church and we discuss these things all the time. This is definitely not a coincidence." He paused, "And it's something I believe you should do."
I believe this was God's answer to my prayers. I received my answer; it just wasn't on my timetable, and it came when I least expected it. I reflected on all the events of the past few weeks, and the twists and turns my life was taking. Could it possibly be a mere coincidence that as one door was closing, another was opening? Perhaps it can be considered so by some. Or, was Doug correct? What else but the Hand of God can be the explanation for the ultimate answer to the two questions that plagued me for so long? Now, I knew that I could get a job. But more importantly, I could get a job where I could help other people using both my work experience and my personal experience.
Now I know the answer to the question I had pondered for all of those years. Why me? I believe that God knew that if I helped others, they would help me to see the big picture, and understand His mysterious ways a little better. And, maybe that was His Plan all along.