I tried to sit quietly as our speaker for that morning, Mr. Raymond “always look on the bright side of life” Johnson continued to enlighten us on how to find our inner strength. As if such a thing were possible. And how was this going to help us in our everyday jobs anyway? The hire-ups had pulled in no less than three speakers in the past four weeks to fulfill their threats of employee enrichment. Mr. Johnson was number four. Don’t get me wrong! I’m all for employee enrichment but while I’m sitting her listening to this drivel, I couldn’t help but wonder about all the constructive things I could be doing. Like answering the phone, getting my third cup of coffee. Coffee . . . hmmmm. . . I looked inside my Styrofoam cup, it was empty. With a heavy sigh I turned to my co-worker.
“Have you found your inner strength yet? Do you think if we tell him we found it he would let us go?”
A slight giggle and then her face went slack.
“Excuse me,” the smooth talker from the podium said, looked directly at me. “I couldn’t help but notice that you seem distracted.”
I looked around, pointed at Joyce on my right, then Karen on my left. “Oh, me!”
A slight smile from the speaker now. “Yes, you!”
“Sorry,” I said, stared into my cup. “I just ran out of coffee. I think I’m going to need more, unless you’re finished now?” A girl could hope.
“I don’t think your employers would be happy if I let you out early.”
“Oh, so I guess you aren’t finished.”
He studied me now, intently. I studied him back. He was so nicely dressed, seemed not to have a worry in the world. I wanted to say something about that but decided against it, for the moment.
“You don’t think it’s important to develop your inner strength?”
“I don’t think it’s something to be developed.” I looked around to see if anyone was going to jump in and help me. No takers, so I continued, fully prepared to go it alone. “--at least, not through a two hour lecture. And I’m not sure it’s something you develop at all. I’m pretty sure it’s just something you have.”
“Don’t you think being able to identify your inner strength would be helpful when it came time to use it?”
“Being able to identify a gun would be helpful if I ever had to use one of those but inner strength . . . no. It’s intangible. It’s not something you or anyone else can help me find.” A pause. “Can I get some more coffee?”
He seemed not to hear me. “Well, perhaps if you’d ever been in a situation where your inner strength was taxed, pushed to its limits—”
They’d all seen the look before. Joyce and Karen in particular. Perhaps they wouldn’t speak up and help me but they were now eager to hear what I had to say. If I’d ever been in a situation before, I thought. “Do you know what ADEM is?” I asked. Since he didn’t look like he knew, I continued. “Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis. It’s when your body creates an “out-law” anti-body to fight a virus. The thing that makes this anti-body an “out-law” is that not only does it kill the virus, it also attacks myelin. Do you know what myelin is?” Again he didn’t look like he knew. “Myelin is the coating that covers your brain. Do you know what a healthy five-year-old looks like when this “out-law” antibody starts attacking that myelin? If it attacks their coordination center, they won’t be able to stand, walk. Speech center, they can’t talk. And the antibody moves around at will. Do you know how much inner strength it takes to watch a child with ADEM before it is diagnosed—before you learn it is something that can be treated? I hope you never have to find out. And furthermore, some might say I had great inner strength to get through this but inner strength had nothing to do with it. I had God whispering in my ear, speaking through his word. Push on, he said. Keep going. I’m right here. I wouldn’t allow anything to happen to you that you couldn’t handle. Why don’t you teach that in the time you have left?”
I looked at my empty cup. “Can I get some more coffee now?”
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