We always meet such fascinating people with lives that are almost unbelievable when we have the privilege of traveling to meet people all over the world. .As in every group we speak to, every person has a story. Some more spectacular than others, but certainly an interesting story. When we finish presentations, often people come up to us with their stories, some that I really want to remember. So for the record here are just a few that I heard:
A young woman in her mid-thirties sat by us at the first dinner of the conference who started her life in NYC. She came from a broken family but both parents were trying their best. Her father, a graduate of the Harvard Business School, had told her that she and her siblings would never have to work. He had scrimped and saved all his life and had apparently gone through such a hard time that he didn’t want his children to experience the same thing. That promise didn’t come to pass and although she didn’t know it at that time the family was living hand to mouth for much of her childhood.
That statement, however, took a toll on her older siblings who are still hanging dependently on their father and have no work ethic but something in her was different. She was attending a private high as a freshman in NYC when she read a book about the damage that education was doing to children…dumbing them down. Consequentially, she decided to drop out of high school at 16. She moved to her mother’s double wide mobile home in Washington state, got a job and basically hibernated. One day she was walking around the campus at the University of Puget Sound and decided she wanted to sit in on some of their classes. When she went into the office to ask about that possibility, they said there was no way she could do that without an SAT score.
But this was one determined little girl. She went to the bookstore and bought all the books she could find on taking the SAT, hunkered down for three months and did nothing but study for the test, determined to get 1600, the highest score. She came very close to that and was immediately allowed to register at the University. After two years she transferred to Stanford where they readily accepted her because of her exceptional grades and excellent progress. She finished that degree along with a master’s degree and started her own company, which she had recently sold. Still unmarried, she expressed her fond desire for a family but needed to find the right guy first. Just an amazing story!
Another story was from a young mom who said that after finding that she and her husband could not have children of their own they adopted two. Their four year old has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and their two year old has a lung disease that requires her to be on oxygen 24/7. She of course, said that they wouldn’t give them back for anything but they had no idea that their healthy babies would develop mental and physical health issues that would require more than they had ever imagined being able to cope with (just as it is with our genetically born children). She was obviously sleep deprived after getting up several times every night to adjust oxygen levels for their youngest. But she was a strong individual and had hope that the lungs would begin to improve in about three years.
A young father approached me at one of the evening events and told a most amazing story about a friend begging he and his wife to help with a young mother who was in prison, had just given birth and desperately needed help with care for the baby just until she got released. With the mom chained to the hospital bed, they picked up the one-day-old baby and took him home to their other four young children.
Days turned to months as the mother begged them to keep him just a little longer and a little longer until she got back on her feet. Occasionally she came in and took him for a few days but when it got to hard, she brought him back. With the mom still in and out of the drug scene they were happy to take care of the little guy and had fallen in love with him.
Five years later, she decided that she was now ready to take her child back….to a very scary existence. When they saw what their beloved little charge was being exposed to (drugs, foul language and not much supervision) they tried to get custody of him but because no legal papers had been signed they were powerless. When the Dad became more adamant that she allow them to keep him her comment was, “Quit bothering me unless you want to see your wife’s body floating down the river and I know just the people who can do that.” Well they gave up on their beloved little son and even though they see him quite often and the mother comments on “what nice manners he has,” their hearts are ripped out as they see the future he faces. With five years of great training and seeing what parenting is really like, they are praying that he will become a good parent himself someday because of all their efforts. Ah life!
I loved every story that I heard and immensely enjoyed learning from people from foreign countries. Saudi Arabia is one of our favorite places to visit. Totally fascinating! These good men from Saudi were at our table on the night of the last event in Buenos Aires.
One of them told the story of his Saudi Arabian father who was very wealthy and a magnanimous humanitarian who had spent millions of dollars in aid to Africa when 911 occurred. Sadly the government (maybe the UN?) somehow labeled him as a terrorist, seized his funds and forbid him to leave the country for eleven years! This young man had just been at a prestigious law school in the states with his father as they were reviewing the magnificent injustice of that case. They are both now back at work doing good in the world. Ah politics!
Another had a 21-year-old brother who was ruining his life with drugs at private schools in Canada and then Ireland. No matter what they tried, they couldn’t get him to change his mind about his lifestyle. We discussed that it might have something do with entitlement.
Just look at these good faces! They have all been educated either in the states, Canada or Australia and spoke perfect English. We have loved working with these chapters in the Middle East over the years. They get such a bad wrap (as do we Americans there ). I love to hear their remarkable stories including their good lives with arranged marriages that work and beautiful, bright,well-behaved children.
There are so many good people in the world!