A Time I Did Not Accept Defeat

March 25, 2021

I would like to talk about a time that I did not accept defeat. After four months hitchhiking around Europe, I returned to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to a few really big changes. First, I learned that my mother had breast cancer. And secondly, my seminarian friend who declared his undying love for me the night before I left for Europe met someone else while I was gone and broke up with me. I actually felt a sensation of my heart breaking.

Thirdly, I could not find a job in my chosen field of social work or rehabilitation. I was overwhelmed with sadness. Going back to my mom, when mom and I were with the doctor, who told her that she would need a mastectomy, mom’s response was immediate, ”How soon can I have surgery?” she asked. Mom had surgery and was able to stay with her daughter-in-law Sharon who lived near the hospital, where she would receive radiation in the areas where the cancer had spread.

Mom’s health gradually improved with her naturally positive attitude. Secondly, regarding my seminarian friend, I felt the loss of our four-year friendship deeply, but over time I learned to let go of the pain, a valuable life practice, to let go and let God. With regard to finding work, I did find a temporary life expanding position as a resident coordinator, working for the Sabathani Cultural Arts Center in Minneapolis. Basically I did outreach in the community to tell people about the cultural arts center.

I was 1 of 3 white people in a staff of 35, all of the rest were African-American. I was exposed to many different personalities. I had many different cultural experiences and I ate soul food every day. I was especially tested by some of the men in the center. They were wondering, was I for real? Regarding… Was I for real in terms of what was I doing there, you know? Regarding the cultural experiences, I remember enjoying the West African dancers very much, and I ate soul food for lunch every day.

I’m trying to remember some of the dishes, you know, collard greens and hominy grits and very, very nourishing and…oh pig’s feet, yeah, just a lot of nourishing food that left you full. And a year or so later, I decided to go to graduate school in Mankato where I got my master’s in vocational rehabilitation counseling. And after graduation, I got a position as a vocational rehabilitation counselor in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I enjoyed working with my fellow counselors for about 12 years. And I think I’ve mentioned before, we were like a MASH unit with lots of different characters, similar to the variety on the “M*A*S*H” television show. And I’m gonna leave you with a cliffhanger. I’ll describe those characters at another time.

I just wanted to say, you know, going through life, we all encounter opportunities every day, really as to what our response will be. And I think the reason I remember these three events where they all kind of came together, and that made the heaviness real, you know? And I remember staying at my brother Tom’s and my sister-in-law Doreen’s home for a while after I got back from Europe, and experiencing the support of family during these times is really important.

And so yeah, I, you know, I’m just trying to flash…what I’m remembering going back to the time at…as a vocational rehab counselor, I’m just remembering the skits that we had periodically and some of it was a little off color, so I don’t know if I wanna go there right now. You know, when you deal with…every day, when you interact with people who have every variety of physical, mental, and/or emotional disability, that’s a heavy interaction. And it’s so important that we learn boundaries and not taking on other people’s pain.

So the reason I mentioned the skits, it was just like a, you know, a way to let off steam or to de-stress. And actually throughout the day, one of my best long-term friends, Thomas, Tom, he had the best sense of humor, and he helped us all just get in touch with our laughter. And you know, he was a real support for all of us. I’m not tuning into…well, I think I already told the story about how I had one client who did not remember to bathe very often, and so I had my can of Lysol for when he left, and that was turned into a skit about me and my behavior.

Pete, one of the counselors, came into this place we were having the skit, and they had a short wig, black wig under each of his armpits. And then somebody else had a…a canister of Lysol and then it went on from there. So the skits were also a way for other people to show us how we were seen. And they were fun. I’ll end there.

Download the Free Story Prompt Cards

Enter your information below for instant download

Newsletter Signup

Sign up for our monthly email newsletter to stay up to date with our work and upcoming events!