During my last year of college, training to become a teacher, I experienced a disappointment that I later realized was actually a blessing.
Since I was about to receive my teacher’s certificate, I applied to two schools that were close to where I lived. One school was much larger than the other, and I was really hoping to get hired at the larger school.
I went for a job interview at the larger school on a Friday. The following morning, I got a phone call from the school and was offered the job, so, of course, I accepted. That being the case, I decided not to even go to the interview, which was scheduled for Monday afternoon, at the smaller school. Instead, I planned to call the smaller school Monday morning and tell them I had accepted a position with another school.
However, before I had a chance to call the smaller school Monday morning, I received a phone call from the larger school’s superintendent, who explained that the teacher who had been planning to quit had changed her mind, and, therefore, there was no teaching position for me. I was upset, but at least I hadn’t called the other school and cancelled the interview. So, that afternoon, I went to the job interview at the smaller school. I was offered the job, and I happily accepted.
The next fall, I moved to the nearby town where the school was located and began my teaching career. I taught there for many, many years, and loved every minute of it. I had wonderful students and great parents, and the teachers I worked with were super.
I may have been just as happy teaching at that larger school, but I’m really glad I got hired by the smaller school. I have fond memories of my first teaching job.
Donna – Red Oak, Iowa
Shattered Dream Brought New One
While growing up, most of my friends dreamed of being a teacher, a nurse or a stewardess. I simply dreamed of being a mom. That’s all I wanted.
In 1969, I married a soldier, and we moved from Nebraska to Fort Hood, Texas. I was a 20-year-old newlywed away from home for the first time, and as we settled into a small apartment, I continued dreaming of becoming a mom. However, six months into our marriage, I began having terrible abdominal pain. Doctor visits led to being admitted to the hospital, where surgery was needed. When I awoke, the doctor explained the surgery and said it went well. His next words shattered my world. The surgery he’d had to perform meant I would never be able to have children.
The one dream I had carried in my heart and in my mind for all those years was destroyed. I went down a dark tunnel of emotional crisis. I thought God didn’t like me for some reason. I tried to think of what I could have possibly done that could have been so bad that God would take away my one dream. I cried until there were no tears left to cry.
Months after my surgery, I had a revelation from God. He wanted me to be a mom, but He had something in mind for me that I’d never thought of. He put in my heart that there are thousands of babies who need mommies, and suddenly, I knew that my husband and I were supposed to adopt. My husband agreed that it was definitely an option we should look into. However, we had no idea what was involved in adoption. We thought it would be like the shows on TV, where you call an agency, and in no time, they bring you a baby. Were we in for a shock!
We started looking into adoption agencies, but my husband being in the military made things more difficult, because while starting the process, we moved from Texas to Colorado to Japan. Each agency we talked to had different requirements and rules, and most required you be a resident of the state in which you were filing. So, following months of paperwork, I was again discouraged.
When my husband got leave, we went home and shared our dreams and discouragements with our pastor, who gave us information on an agency that works with children from overseas. With his help, we started the paperwork through that agency. When my husband’s leave was over, we were on our way to Okinawa, Japan. Once we were settled, we met with the base chaplain, who took over where our pastor left off with the adoption process.
After tons of paperwork, background checks and meetings, we were finally approved to adopt. When we received a picture and information about a little boy in Korea, in early 1972, we knew wanted to be he parents. In October, we flew to Korea and spent two days with our son. The first time we held him in our arms, he won our hearts and became our little boy. It was very difficult to leave him there, but we couldn’t take him home until all the paperwork was finalized.
We finally got word that everything was final, and we could go get our son in December. So, we flew to Korea again to bring Bobby home. I will never know what a woman feels while carrying a child or giving birth, but I do know what a woman must feel when she sees her child for the first time.
When my husband’s tour in Okinawa was over, he was transferred to Fort Riley, Kansas. We got settled, then started another set of paperwork with the same adoption agency we’d used before, and in 1974, our second son arrived. This time we just had to go to the airport in Kansas City, Missouri, and pick him up. We stood waiting with nine other adoptive couples watching a big plane come in. Emotions were high as we all stood there, knowing our babies were on that plane. Then, one by one, sponsors came off the plane as we all watched, wondering which baby was ours. Finally, our name was called, and our son, whom we named Billy, was placed in our arms. Again, I felt immediate love, and was thrilled to have another son.
Yes, my world was shattered when I was told I could not have children, but, as we all know, God is in control, and everything happens for a reason. When I discovered that God had chosen me to become a mommy through adoption, my shattered world was once again whole, and I have had peace and love in my life by adopting those two little boys.
Jo Ann – Cozad, Nebraska
Disaster Formed Bonds
It was a beautiful Kansas morning as I made my way downtown to have breakfast at the cafeteria on Main Street. We’d had rain the night before, so the streets were still wet, and as I approached the cafeteria, I noticed a large group of people standing in front of the Red Cross office, holding bundles of clothing, blankets and household items.
I had been going to the cafeteria every morning for the past three weeks, and I always saw three other women there. Each of us sat at our own table and read the newspaper or a book. We saw one another, but none of us had ever spoken.
This particular morning, however, after I sat down at a table, one of the gals, Dorothy, came over to me and asked if I’d heard about Utah, and I said that I hadn’t. So, she explained that a tornado had come through last night and Utah had been wiped out. Being new to Kansas, my eastern ear hadn’t yet picked up the Kansas accent, so when I heard “Utah,” I couldn’t figure out her distress. After all, Utah was quite a ways from Wichita, Kansas. However, I just agreed with her that it was a shame.
Soon, the other two regulars, Veda and Margie, arrived and joined us, and the three of them began filling me in on twisters. When my newspaper slipped off the table, I retrieved it and came face to face with the headline: “Udall Wiped Out.” Suddenly it was clear. Dorothy hadn’t said “Utah,” she had said “Udall,” which was only about 40 miles from Wichita. No wonder they were so concerned. We had just missed being hit by a disastrous twister. Then it hit me that all the people in line at the Red Cross were there to help their neighbors. My new friends and I made plans to meet later that day and go to the Red Cross to see what we could do to help.
That day was May 26, 1955, and although a terrible thing had happened, it brought the community together, and it formed a friendship between Dorothy, Veda, Margie and myself – a friendship that has lasted through the years.
Florence – North Hollywood, California
Neighbors Demands Increased Property Value
My husband, Jack, and I were living on a ranch in Glade Park, Colorado, with our children when a young couple bought the land in front of our property. We welcomed them by visiting and taking baked goods, and they seemed nice. However, problems arose when our new neighbors realized that their property line went diagonally across the lane that was the entrance to our ranch and which had been there since 1930.
We offered to give them equal land at the back of their property if they would allow us to leave the lane as it was. Our offer was unacceptable to them, and, instead, they wanted us to move the road. To do so meant we would have to purchase land from the owners of the front property. When we talked to the owners of the front property, we were told they wouldn’t sell a small piece of land, but they would sell the whole 125 acres.
To our surprise, and frustration, our neighbor man built a fence across our lane. My husband tore it down, and the next day it was back. This happened almost daily. We left notes for the neighbors asking if we could work things out over a cup of coffee, but their only reply was to build the fence again the following day.
We finally decided to buy the land in front of our property, and, since the ranch and 320 acres were clear of debt, we had to use it as collateral for the new property. Money was tight, but we managed by spending money only on bare necessities. We had a garden, and I froze and canned food, which helped a lot.
Shortly after our new road was built and the neighbors’ fence was up, they sold their property and moved. We were left “holding the bag,” but it worked out for the best in the end, because when we decided to sell our property, the extra acreage helped us get a much better price.
Ruth – Holbrook, Arizona
Fire Provided New Home
I know I’ve had many blessings in disguise over the years, but one in particular stands out.
Many years ago, while our family was attending a Christian concert at our church, a neighborhood friend phoned the church and said our house was on fire. Those frightening words and the devastation we felt made for a silent drive home.
When we got there, we watched the firemen as dense smoke spiraled from the windows like tidal waves while the flames destroyed our home. The next day, the generosity of friends and neighbors unfolded around us. Although we had nothing left except the clothes we were wearing, we felt blessed that we were all safe.
When I was able to enter the house, the first thing I saw was the huge wall clock my husband, Norm, had specially designed for me, which was now blackened from the smoke and fire. The kitchen, where I had spent so much time cooking and cleaning for our family of eight, was destroyed. My sewing machine was toppled over and ruined. When I touched the girls’ clothing in their bedroom, they fell to the floor in charred heaps. The twin mattresses in the boys’ bedroom were lying on the floor, soaking up water like huge sponges. As I shuffled from one room to another, my vision was blurred with tears.
We rebuilt on the same lot, and on our 25th wedding anniversary, we moved into our new home, which is much nicer than our old home had been. What a beautiful gift! Do I consider this a blessing in disguise? You bet I do.
Susan – St. Joseph, Missouri
Depression: A Blessing in Disguise
The worst part about having a boss is knowing they can ruin your life in the blink of an eye.
I walked into my boss’ office and took a seat. I greeted her with a smile; though little did I know this meeting was nothing to smile about.
She glared into my eyes as she sat down, “I’m going to be honest, Jeremy.” She paused.
I could tell by the way she pronounced my name this was an important matter. She continued in her Israeli accent, “Conversations like these are my least favorite thing to do”.
My throat sank deep into my stomach like a bowling ball dropped into the middle of the ocean.
I never thought I’d get fired from any job. If I did, I wanted it to be purposeful, like if I were to get caught streaking through the office on a Tuesday afternoon or bringing monkeys into the office as a part of my latest music video. But now, I was getting fired for other reasons.
Not only was I losing my job, but also I was getting evicted, as room & board were apart of my contract. I was getting fired for the simple reason that I wasn’t acting as my normal self for the past week. For the next ten minutes, she looked me straight in the eyes laying out the evidence, until I finally embraced my current reality.
And it hurt.
It was clear something was wrong with me. Everyone noticed it except for me.
I wasn’t making friends easily. I lacked excitement. I was quiet and shy. Was I depressed?
I sauntered back to my room and sat in silence. My insides cried like a newborn baby deprived of his pacifier. Yet, my eyes were drier than the Negev desert. I was in Israel, on the other side of the world with no job, no family, no confidence, no direction, and no idea what to do.
Learning from your past the right way
Eight weeks later, I was back in Minnesota. Back with my family and friends and back to being my true self. Well, almost.
As soon as I felt much better, I started to reflect on what happened and connect the dots. I began to realize what lead to my depression.
People say “hindsight is 20/20”, but that’s only true if you can pinpoint your detailed mistakes. Once you notice where you went wrong, it’s easy to learn from it. Many say,“experience is the best teacher,” but this only holds true if you want to be taught, and if you’re paying attention to the lessons.
It’s important to find a way to relearn what hindsight and experience have already revealed. Like depression, mistakes and failures can be painful, but by learning from it, you can turn it into a positive. Without contemplating your past, you’ll end up repeating history over and over again.
See, a lot of people view depression as a bad thing because, well, anyone who has been depressed knows that it’s not fun. In fact, it’s the opposite of fun; it’s painful. Just because something is painful doesn’t mean it’s bad.
Without depression, I would have never been forced to look back and think deeply about everything. I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to let experience be my teacher, because I wouldn’t have tried to be a student.
Over 50% of Americans suffer from depression at some point of their lifetime. Well, I’m not ashamed to be apart of the majority, and I’m more than happy to share my depression stories.
Many people may argue that depression is a chemical imbalance, which it may be. But, I allowed that chemical balance to take over my thoughts.
Here’s just a few things I’ve learned from all this. After all, failure is inevitable; so we might as well learn from it.
1) Loneliness requires action
I was in a distant land with very few friends. Those few friends that I did have were busy with work, school, or in the Israeli army. When you’re that lonely, you feel like no one cares about you.
Rather than sit in my room and play guitar for four hours straight, I should have been getting out there and forcing myself to meet people. I’m an extravert. I love being around people. Whether it’s leading a bus filled with drunk students, serving tables at a café, or simply saying hi to the cashier, these interactions feed my energy.
I love meeting people, I love attention, and I love feeling popular. If you want to become popular, you need to meet one friend at a time. How many people did I meet for coffee? How many local meet ups did I go to? Zero.
I was lost in a city, but instead of getting out there and meeting people, I kept myself in isolation. This only made matters worse. The scariest thing is that you can fall into this state in a matter of days. So it’s important to always be aware.
2) When you’re feeling down, tell others
In all of this loneliness, not once did I share my emotions with a loved one until it was too late. When I finally opened up, it was great.
It was 11:30PM and I was on my way home. I stopped at a convenient store to buy some water.
I sat next to an old, ugly, obese, woman and asked her in Hebrew how she was doing. She smiled and said, “Tov, Baruch Hashem,” which translates to, “Good, in the name of G-d.”
When she asked me how I was doing, I gave a blunt response. My broken Hebrew translates to something like this:
“Not good. Right now, I have no family and no friends. I am alone. Yesterday I have job. Today, I have no job. It is bad. Very bad.”
Telling someone about how I felt was liberating. After speaking the truth, I already felt better. No more faking it and pretending I was okay. I could finally be real.
The woman offered me anything I wanted, cigarettes, chocolate, popcorn, milk, a meal.
But, I didn’t want any of that.
“I just want someone to sit and talk to,” I told her.
I sat with this old woman from for the next three hours as she chain smoked cigarettes, ate, talked about her life, and force fed me her candy. She invited me to go to the beach with her the next day.
I appreciated the invitation, but she had already given me all I needed. I left a little after 3AM. As I said goodbye, we agreed to meet again the following night at the same spot.
The next day, when I showed up, she wasn’t there. Two days later, I looked for her again, but she was nowhere to be found.
I never saw her again. I’ll never forget her either.
3) When your environment changes, you must change.
My time in Israel wasn’t as exotic as I expected because, well, Israel isn’t as exotic as I expected. To some, it may be. But, It’s not like Ghana or South Korea, the two countries that I had visited prior.
Plus, it was my third time visiting Israel. In Israel, I barely stood out. Everyone looks like me: white, Jewish, and hairy (and handsome!).
Rather than blame my depression, living situation, or any other factors, I only blame myself for getting fired.
My environment had changed, but I didn’t adjust. It was a new city with new people. I started from scratch, knowing very few people. Lesson learned.
The day after I met the lady, I wrote a rap. Getting my thoughts and feelings out on paper always makes me feel better:
Today may be as hard as it gets
I finally realize why I’m acting strange, cuz I’m depressed
or maybe it’s just too much loneliness
either way, my current situation ain’t best
time for a change, some new scenery
little by little I’ll improve til I can be the me
that everybody knows, happy and smiley
excited about life, always living highly
will it take a day, a year, a month?
not sure but I can’t wait to get out of this funk
faded with depression, this is my confession
time to search for help in need of a new lesson
life goes on, but it’s not the same
noticeably out of sync, always feelin strange
I’m a happy person, at least so I thought
but now my mood swings are makin me feel lost
can’t fall asleep, too much goin’ on in my head
and then the next afternoon I can’t get out of bed
what has gone wrong? I wanna snap out of it
without energy and excitement, I feel powerless
5am and I’m lonelier than ever
I hope I’ve reached rock bottom and it only gets better
I know everything will be alright, but that’s long term
what about tonight or today? will I make it okay?
will I get out of this funk? will my depression go away?
I’m scared, is this chemical imbalance here to stay?
must I seek medication or can I naturally heal
if my change my way of life can I change the way I feel?
more questions only lead to more confusion
what am I doing? for god’s sake I’m only human
everything happens for a reason, it’s true
so there’s gotta be a reason why I’m feelin this blue
matter of fact I feel more blue and black
bruised inside, and it’s guiding me off track
it’s all on the inside, so no one else sees
but I miss the real me, and he’s missin’ me
I’m ready to be back and return to my normal self
til then I gotta reach out for help
<< Click here to watch a video of me rapping it >>
4) Pain isn’t always bad
Most people views depression as a bad thing. Because of that, people with symptoms feel more compelled to hide it like it’s something they should be ashamed of. I felt the same way.
But looking back, getting fired was a huge wake up call. Falling into depression was the best thing that happened to me. It reminded me that I needed to make a change. It allowed me to recognize all of my problems rather than ignore them.
So if you’re feeling down, remember that it’s not permanent. You’ll be fine.
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