This has happened to me many a times; I am at a crossroads – different options to choose from – or don’t know how to get out of a particularly difficult spot – or simply, need to talk things through with someone who may have gone through a similar difficulty.
Suddenly, a friend, or even a stranger, comes forward and helps figure out the puzzle. I call these folks, the Angels at our crossroads.
The first Angel at the major crossroad of my life, arrived when I was eighteen. My father had just passed away; I am getting ready to go to school in the far off land of USA. A college friend of my Dad’s, provided the critically needed US visa sponsorship guarantee to make this transition. At that juncture, that support, made all the difference. Without the support of the Abdullah family, it would have been almost impossible for this middle-class teenager to enter this land of opportunity to achieve his dream..
When I arrived at Columbia, Missouri, the Latif family became my local guardians. Every Sunday, when the dorm cafeteria was closed, this wonderful family fed and provided shelter at their home. When my sneakers wore out, this family, themselves students, bought me a new pair of blue Adidas sneakers with their own savings.
In Toledo, Ohio, the Ahmed family similarly provided both support and intellectual nourishment. They took me with them on their own family vacations; even hosted my family at their home whenever someone came to visit me.
Later in life, others have similarly enriched our lives with their support, concern, advice or suggestions. In some instances, they have provided that necessary introduction – that may have steered me in my personal or career choice in a certain direction.
I could go on and on.
I believe, these are not just random acts of accidents. These Angels, are put on earth by God, to specifically play that role or be there as that shade of support. One common characteristic of these Angels in my life is that, they have never asked for anything in return.
The only practical way to return these “favors” is to “pay-it-forward”. To be on the lookout for that strained student – or that family in need – to try and provide shelter, comfort or emotional encouragement. It’s not necessary always to be a financial sponsor; sometimes an open conversation with a distressed young teenager or someone seeking career advice or a introduction to an important recruiter, is just as valuable.
In Chemistry, we call these catalytic acts. Serving as a catalyst for bringing two otherwise independent elements, to react and form something different.
This week, I met with someone who told me that I have acted as a catalyst of similar change in his career choice. It is personally very rewarding to watch someone succeed in their lives and knowing that you may have somehow played a small role in that success. When I met him for the first time, some eight years ago, he was confident in his abilities and ready to conquer the world. All that was needed, was a simple, “You can do it”. From this experience, it’s easier to understand why teachers and coaches usually are some of the greatest catalysts in our lives.
Every day, I am grateful to God, for giving me the opportunity to know and meet my angels and catalysts and learning from them. Without their support, re-assurance, helping hand and constructive feedback, it’s difficult to imagine where I would be today.