Friday, October 4, 2013

The Upside of the Fishbowl

So. I guess that was a whiny post, wasn't it? But truly - you'll have to trust me on this - I could've been much, much harsher and more judgmental. I'm old and cranky, I guess, and I don't have time for mean people.

(Sometimes I like to picture the DCM going home at the end of the week, putting on her oldest, comfiest pair of footsie pajamas, throwing herself down on the couch and thinking "I should've been a kindergarten teacher." I don't actually know if she does that. But I imagine she might, after a whole week spent dealing with the fishbowl.)

But enough about the evils of the foreign service fishbowl. Let's go back to sparkles and unicorns, shall we? Because there IS an upside to the  fishbowl. And it's pretty damned awesome.

Let's just use, by way of example, last Saturday.

Last Saturday was crazy. It was what you might politely term a not-so-good day, and frankly, it was coming at the end of a very not-so-good week, when I was struggling to keep it together, both at work and at home. I had one kid with a broken cell phone, 3 kids getting hair cuts, one kid on a play date, one kid facing an orthodontics consultation, one kid starting First Communion classes and church itself (always a good time with 4 kids and one adult, right at the dinner hour), all crammed into one afternoon. Plus, as you parents out there know: dinner wasn't going to make itself.

As a treat for good behavior at the cell phone store, I took the kids to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

(And here perhaps I should mention that this was a treat for my good behavior, not theirs.)

While we were there, my cell phone rang. I looked, and saw that it was an Embassy extension - which usually isn't good news on a weekend. I answered, though, and good thing I did. It was a colleague of mine who works for the Iraq Support Unit here in Amman.

It turns out, he knew someone who was heading to Baghdad the very next morning. Someone I'd never met, personally. But my colleague asked this new guy if he'd be willing to hand-carry something from me to Bart. (Normally, if I want to mail him something, it has to go from here and back to DC in the diplomatic mail, only to be transferred to the Baghdad address and shipped back here again. I tried that a few weeks ago - no idea where the package ended up, but it ain't in Baghdad yet!)

New guy said yes! Not only that, but new guy offered to come to my house to pick it up on his way to the airport, so I wouldn't have to get up early and track him down. My colleague was calling to tell me that if I could get a box of goodies packed up, he could get it to Bart within 24 hours.

Somehow, in the midst of my crazy day, I knew I had to find the time to bake.

We made 4 dozen chocolate chip cookies that night, along with a pile of homemade protein bars, and carefully packed them in bubble wrap, along with artwork supplied for the occasion by Ainsley and Kyra. I tucked the box in the fridge and said a silent prayer that the kind stranger wouldn't forget about us on his way to the airport.

Sure enough, early the next morning, my doorbell rang, and a man I'd never seen before smiled politely as I staggered down the front steps, still in my jammies, hair all crazy, holding that box of cookies aloft.

Late that afternoon, Bart called to tell me the surprise package had arrived and was being consumed by his office mates. He was touched and surprised and happy to know we were thinking of him. I think, honestly, that it might have been the one bright spot in his week.

The fishbowl. Sometimes it works in your favor. My friend in the Iraq Support Unit knows how tough this gig is, and he found a way - on his own, without me asking - to make it just a little bit easier: for me, for my kids, for my husband. And then, a stranger stepped in to make something good happen for us.

Amazing. I am so grateful for this week's fishbowl.


Ruth Anne said... [Reply]

I love the upside to the fishbowl, and the amazing kindness of our colleagues. I remember walking into work one dark winter morning in Berlin to find a bag of homemade Armenian sweets on my desk. Turned out one of my former FSNs was going for training and saw that someone from Berlin would be at the same training course, so had her mom make a batch of my favorite treats, hand-carried to her training class, and passed them off to her colleague from Berlin. So incredibly thoughtful.

Deborah said... [Reply]

Aw made me cry. So nice!

Lynne said... [Reply]

Love it! Love every aspect of this story (except for the barely hanging in there part, but I get that and I only have 2 kids and my husband is here)

Please. Write your own stuff.