There and Back Again
~Kerry Iyua Diné
I never quite understood that phrase: expect the unexpected. Just how can you expect something when you have no clue when, where, and how it’s going to hit? Instead, I’d always believed in prepare for the unexpected. I never liked that word “expectation”. It makes it seem like it’s something you have to do. Instead, I believe in being prepared and ready. Life has many surprises, some positive and negative. We all got to be ready for them. They can and always will catch us off guard sometimes. For me, my “surprise” happened this past summer. I was prepping my lessons and activities for my summer youth program and my supervisor pulled me aside and whispered something I’ll never forget.
“I’m not supposed to tell you right now, but I believe you ought to know,” he said. “We’re going to be out of a job in less than three weeks.”
It hit me like a pile of bricks. I thought he was joking but there was such sincerity to his tone that I knew immediately he was speaking the truth. I came to work like any ordinary day and I’ve read and heard countless stories of friends and family who’ve lost jobs so unexpectedly too and I’d sympathize with them. I just never thought it would happen to me.
Too embarrassed at first, I didn’t tell a soul. I continued the rest of my day as if nothing ever happened but deep down I was terrified. How was I going to pay for rent, bills, and food? How much will my last paycheck cover in expenses? So many questions poured into my head and by the end of the day, I was completely stressed out.
I’ve been with this agency for nearly four years and since it has been in operation for over ten years, I figured I would be in good company. The pay was the best I’ve ever gotten an any of my previous jobs but what I was definitely going to miss were the great people I’ve encountered and most of all, the kids I’ve met and seen grow before my eyes. As stated before, I wasn’t supposed to have known about the job termination because it was our entire agency that would cease to exist soon. When I headed to work the next day, I had to bite my tongue from seeing all the smiling faces from my coworkers because it was evident they didn’t know the truth yet.
And I couldn’t say a word.
Our small prevention team, consisting of five individuals discussed long and hard about whether we should continue our summer program or end it entirely. We figured this was the only place our youth could come together, have a great time and be safe. So we decided to keep the summer program going as planned but the afterschool program will no longer be in operation once school started. And that was gut wrenching enough.
Every day when I returned home, I scoured the Internet and newspapers for any job listings that suited my qualifications. Unfortunately, they were very scarce. Then it left me no choice but to consider fast food again. It’s an honest paying job but it wouldn’t exactly be the one I wanted. With only one week left before I’d receive my last paycheck, I panicked.
I did research upon research on how to brush up on my interviewing skills and how to speak professionally. But as the days went by, there was no response or phone call. All my applications were probably sitting on some pile in a manager’s office somewhere. I didn’t know what to do, I felt like this was all new that I never did before. To be quite honest, with my current job, I was lucky enough to be accepted. Who knows what could happen next.
* * *
If there’s one thing I’ll forever be grateful for, it’s a birthday gift I gave to myself several months ago. That gift was to be very conscious of my finances. Making and sticking to a budget has truly paid off, not to mention making nearly every small or big purchase with coupons. Having a stockpile full of personal hygiene and cleaning products that has lasted me several months has been a blessing. And with every penny and dollar saved, I stored it away.
Knowing that I saved and accumulated for the past several months had definitely taken some of the stress and pressure off my shoulders. And it’s a perfect example of preparing for the unexpected. When I began to realize that it really wasn’t the end of the world, things in my life began to take a positive turn for the better.
Knowing and experiencing the strength of a traditional Native American prayer, my friend John (a traditional practitioner) performed one; it last several hours in the quietness of his home. We prayed that whatever path we choose, we would find it quick. We prayed that many of our other coworkers would find a suitable job as well that will continue to nourish their careers. We prayed for a thought of starting something miraculous too.
And the very next day, our small prevention team came together and pondered one tremendous question: What if we began our own nonprofit organization? What would it be like if we started from scratch? Many of our team members have been with our current agency since it began over a decade ago and if they could do it, why not us? Tremendous amounts of work and funds would be needed but we were all determined to get it started.
And just that idea itself began to spark hope in many of us.
Then, on the very same day we decided to go forth with our own nonprofit organization, our current CEO worked diligently with the school district that runs our recovery school. Within less than a week she was able to convince the district to take in our students, rehire our teachers and counselors, and hire our prevention team at their brand new school site!
Each of us worked hard gathering important documents for new personnel files as well as preparing our transition from our current location to the new school site. While we prepped for the new school, we continued to go forth with our nonprofit by submitting our application and awaiting its fate. But what made me feel at ease was knowing that if we were to get the nonprofit status, then we would be able to stay with our kids and their families.
I truly believe that our prayers were answered in many aspects of our lives. In the beginning we all felt hopeless, like our worlds were crashing around us. Each day we came to work feeling like it would be our last. I know not too many people can be as blessed as we were and we won’t take this wonderful new opportunity for granted. It was such a horrible feeling knowing that all that you’ve worked for nearly came close to an end but then just as it once came unexpectedly, something much more magnificent come too.
And I’m pleased to announce that as of this writing, our application for a nonprofit status has been approved for both the state and federal. We’re currently working hard to find a suitable name to represent the services we’ll provide to our kids, families, and communities for many, many years to come.
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