One afternoon in August of 1999, I
arrived at my home health aide job and was informed that my patient would be
going away on vacation for about two months beginning the next day, and that I
wouldn’t be working until he returned. This meant that I wouldn’t be making any
money from this job until my client returned from vacation.
I left for my second job as a guard
at the construction site. When I got there, I was shocked to find a new
security guard I had never met on duty. I thought there must have been a mix-up
as I approached the young man, dressed in the agency’s uniform, a white,
long-sleeved shirt with the agency’s badge stitched to the upper arm of one of
the sleeves, and worn over a pair of black pants. He seemed uncomfortable as I
walked toward him, and his smooth, clean-shaven face looked unsettled as he sat
behind the security desk. When I got to the desk, he rose up and offered his
hand for a handshake. “Good day. You must be Emmanuel?”
“Yes, that’s my name.”
“The dispatcher said for you to
call the office when you get here.”
“Really? Is anything the problem?”
“I don’t know,” he said, throwing
up his arms in submission and scrunching his face for emphasis.
I went to the phone hooked on the wall in the
dusty construction area and dialed the office.
"Hello," a voice answered
at the other end.
"This is Emmanuel. I just got
here and I was told to call the office."
"Yes, that's right. We’re
taking you off that site,” he said. “We need someone who can work the site from
four to twelve. We’ll try and find you another site that fits your schedule.”
"Ok," I answered meekly. “How soon
will you find me another site with the same schedule?”
“I don’t know yet. But we’ll call
you as soon as something comes up.”
I hung up the phone, waved goodbye
to the new guy and left the site with a heavy heart.
went to my nightshift job and worked until the following morning. When my shift
was done, the supervisor, who also lived in the apartment complex, called me
over. "Emmanuel, I want to have a word with you," he said and
motioned me to come into his office.
supervisor, Mr. Briggs, was a very large, tall, dark man in his late fifties
with an excess of everything: excess gut that hung over his pants overshadowing
his belt, pushing against the buttons of his tucked-in shirt as if fighting to
be set loose; oversized appetite as he was known to consume six full-sized
burgers and several cans of sodas in one sitting; excess hair as hair sprouted
from his nostrils and earlobes, not to mention his bountiful beard and
I walked slowly into Mr. Briggs’
office with a deep feeling of dread and a sweaty brow. I surveyed the small,
dimly lit room furnished with just a desk that had a little boom box gracing
one of its corners and a plastic chair with steel legs. Mr. Briggs sat
uncomfortably on the plastic chair that seemed too small to contain his large
size, and his abundant belly drooped between his thighs as they yielded to the
pull of gravity. My early morning, sleep-deprived face attempted a smile that
was met with Mr. Briggs’ straight face as he looked at me with a practiced,
unfriendly, boss-like countenance.
sorry. I have to let you go," he announced, looking stoic without any
attempt at courtesy.
"What did I do?" I asked.
"Someone reported to me that you were
sleeping on the job."
can’t be true. I don’t sleep on the job. I can't sleep because a camera is
directed straight at the desk. If I slept you’d see it on the tape. Please review the tapes, and you’ll find out
sorry. I still have to let you go.”
told you that I was sleeping?”
doesn’t matter who told me.”
they said I was reading or studying on the job, that’s true. But I didn’t sleep
on the job. You need to review the tapes.”
to me!” he said forcefully, his large body quaking with his sudden movement and
energetic emphasis. He seemed to catch himself and softened his tone. “You’re
still very young. You need to go and do something better with your life than
this job. Go finish your school."
I need this job to help me with my schooling. Without this job, I can't pay my
rent, and I won't be able to put gas in my car. Please don't do this to
decision has been made. Please hand over your keys.”
I slowly removed the keys from my
key chain, handed them over to him and left the premises with a bitterness of
heart and abject melancholy.
felt as if the devil was just on a personal mission to destroy me. I had lost
three jobs within twenty-four hours. I didn't believe this was a natural course
of event. I strongly believed it was a spiritual attack from the pit of hell.
How could I be working so hard, juggling three jobs, never late to any of them,
struggling hard to make money the right way, yet I lost all three jobs within twenty-four
hours? None of the jobs or supervisors was related, yet one thing or the other
had led to the same result—joblessness, unemployment within one day. My worst
fear had become real. What I feared most had encompassed me.
I was too tired and too disappointed
to pray that day and for many days afterward. I was completely and utterly
depressed. I dialogued with God in my heart and reasoned that maybe it was
because of certain sins I had committed or some people somewhere were cursing
me and desperately praying for my downfall, yet I couldn’t figure out an
During this trying period, I wrote
a poem of prayer, I titled “Turbulent Moment.”
I feel desolate and afflicted.
What sins have I committed?
To deserve these punishments?
Yet, in praising God I would not relent.
I am dreadfully lonely and desperately sad.
I hope to have a better life than the one that I had.
But now I feel very bad.
Yet in God, I will trust for He will make me glad.
I wonder what went wrong.
Every day I hear the same old song.
I ponder about my afflictions all day long.
But still I praise the Lord all along.
I know that God is always by my side.
Under His name will I hide.
Beneath His shadow will I abide.
Whenever I remember this, I feel complete inside.
After I unsuccessfully searched for
jobs for two months and with my savings dwindling fast, panic set in, and my
anxiety quadrupled. I relentlessly scoured the city of New York for security guard jobs, care jobs
and home health aide jobs to no avail. I read the Help Wanted pages in
newspapers like a student studying for a test. I went from one office to
another, completing job applications, praying and hoping for callbacks that
afternoon, I was watching television after I returned from my job search when I
saw a U.S. Army advertisement promising $50,000 for college tuition and the
opportunity of becoming a proud soldier. I was immediately sold on the idea.
Although I had seen the same advertisement several times in the past without
giving it a passing thought, it had a new meaning for me during this period of
joblessness. I thought the Army would be the perfect way out of my current
dilemma. If I enlisted, I wouldn’t have to worry about paying my tuition up to
the doctorate level because the Army would take care of it. I wouldn't have to
worry about paying rent because the Army would provide and pay for a fitting
accommodation. Above all, I would become a respected member of society during
and after my service. So I decided to enlist.....
(Note: The event in this chapter happened in 2004-2005 and is different from the events in Chapter 14).
A few months into my joblessness, my wife started volunteering for a homeless ministry in the church called Life Transformation Center. The center was founded by Pastor Jim Kobunski, a compassionate man dedicated to the cause of providing assistance such as food, shelter and clothing to the homeless. Pastor Jim and his helpers would go around the city of Columbus searching for the homeless. They would visit their neighborhoods, befriend them and bring them to the church hall for shelter. They would also serve them hot meals, while encouraging them to listen to the gospel. However, no conditions were attached. A homeless person could come, eat and sleep and still refuse to listen to a sermon.
Pastor Jim and the volunteers often went into the deep woods of urban Columbus where the homeless had built makeshift tents that only kept the rain out but couldn’t keep out the cold, bugs and rodents. It was an unimaginable place of poverty and squalor. Most people are oblivious of the existence of such places in the city of Columbus.
One cold winter morning, I went with Pastor Jim and my wife in search of the homeless. We went into an area of town that was as foreign to me as Antarctica, yet it was less than thirty-five minutes’ drive from where I lived. I witnessed abject suffering of unimaginable proportion. I saw tents in the woods made of dirty plastic bags hanging from one stem to the other. Empty beer bottles littered the floor, while rags and filth colonized the environment.
The residents were so dirty one could see the dirt vividly on their skins, caked to their bodies. Their teeth were rotten with brown and black tartar decorating the few surviving enamels. The putrid smell of their unwashed bodies that hadn't had any intimate relationship with a shower for months, mixed with the foul atmosphere, could gag a dead man. I couldn't breathe normally because I had to hold my breath to avoid the seemingly stingy pungent smell, yet I couldn't cover my nose with my hands because I didn’t want to offend anyone. Besides, the people I went with weren’t covering their noses because they were more familiar with the stench.
I listened, stupefied, as the homeless men and women told us their stories. I felt the deepest compassion for them and wished I could transport them to a better place and transform their lives with a magic wand. It became apparent to me that just when I thought my problem of being unemployed was a terrible one, others in the same environment were experiencing hardships of more unimaginable proportions than I had ever known.
I felt like the proverbial man who was complaining about not having shoes until he met a man without legs. I had just met some people without legs. This experience changed my perspective and attitude to life at the time. I became more appreciative for what I still had and for the life I was living, even without a job...