Friday, March 20, 2015


There are certain times in my life that I've had to stop and wonder what it is that I'm doing, where I'm going, and what has gotten me here.  I've not kept quiet about the fact the the past few weeks have been difficult.  The most difficult that I've been through in a long time, but during this time I've thought about what I'm being told.  I don't believe that we go through any unnecessary pain in this life.  There's a lesson in every hardship.

What's the lesson here?

I've been asking myself that question repeatedly.  I think about it all the time.  I process it constantly.  I want to know what God is trying to do with what I'm going through, and why He trusts me so much.

I'm finding that this lesson, these trials, are showing me so much more than the easy times ever do. I don't learn from the good, or so I've found.  When things are easy for me, I'm grateful, but I don't let the important parts of myself grow.  I don't reflect on the parts of myself that need work.  I skate along.  I let myself get by without really working at growing. I think that's why I have internal crises. It's annoying, but it's how I know that I'm about to be stronger, smarter, and more capable.

Lately, I feel like I'm going through what I've been through before.  It's a sort of deja vu.

I'm not going to get into what's going on in this particular situation, but I've been here before.  I've gone through it.  I thought I had come out of it stronger and smarter, but I was wrong.  I was dealing with the symptoms of the problem, but not the problem itself.

The problem is that I don't feel like I'm good enough.  I talked about this in my last blog.  I'm still dealing with it.  I will always be dealing with it, because I can't be perfect, I will always be less than good enough.

I shared an article earlier today about perfection.  My mom has always thought that it was ridiculous that I considered myself a perfectionist, but, in a lot of ways, I am.

The article I shared talked about the guilt that perfectionists walk around with. I've dealt with this for a while now, and it never really gets any better.  I feel all consuming, painful guilt with every mistake I make.  I let it control my mind.  I let it eat at me.

I've recently made a lot of mistakes at work.  I mean a lot.  Clients have been falling through the cracks.  I'm failing these people.

There are so many of them, though.  I work and work and work.  I try as hard as I can, and my hardest, my best, isn't good enough.  Sometimes, I'm learning, you can give it absolutely 100% of yourself and it's just not enough.

This is the hardest lesson that I'm having to learn.  The hardest lesson that I've ever learned so far.  You can't do everything, and you can't do anything perfectly.  There will always be a mistake.  There
is no way we can do it all.

It has been painful learning to accept the mistakes that I make that can hurt other people because the mistakes I make in my work have a direct impact on the clients that I serve.  I'm hurting the people that I serve.

That hurts.  It feels a little like a knife in my chest.  I carry it with me all the time.

It's overwhelming and scary.

I'm having to come to terms with the fact that I will make these mistakes.  It sucks.  It hurts.  I don't know how to deal with it.

I wish I could say that there's always room for improvement.  There's always next time.  I can always do better.

Is that healthy?

Is it healthy to look at what we believed was our best, our top effort, all we could do, and say, "I need to be better."

How is it possible that this is our norm?

We always tell kids to do better next time, to please people, to be the best that they can be.

Who determines what's the best that someone else can do?  Why do we care so much about the standards of others? Why does someone else get to decide what my personal best is?  I haven't realized that these were things that I needed to ask myself.

I didn't really notice how much of myself I was investing into my work until I broke down in front of my housemates and my site coordinator today.

They raised genuine concerns.  They pointed things out that I hadn't even noticed.

I've taken a very unhealthy turn in my life.  I drink too much, I sleep too much, I don't eat any sort of balanced meal, and, most importantly, I'm miserable.  I'm not at my best.

I'm failing at work because I'm failing myself.

Isn't it funny that we're told that sacrificing ourselves is what's best for everyone?

I'm not saying that my parents directly told me that I had to sacrifice myself.  No one has ever told me that, actually.  I see that in my everyday life.  I was raised by parents that would literally give the shirts off of their backs to anyone.  They would give their last dollar to someone that was hungry.  They have the most amazing capacity to love others that I have ever seen first hand.  They're able to balance that, though.  They have learned that they're not at their best unless they first practice self care.

I haven't gotten that down yet.

I call it self care when I come home at 5:15 and am in bed and ready to go to sleep at 6:30.

I call it self care when I go to Starbucks to keep myself awake before work, even though I went to bed early the night before.

I call it self care to binge watch Charmed on Netflix so I can try to copy the behavior of those really badass women.

I call a lot of things "self care" when, in reality, they're self destruction.

I'm realizing, though, that if I'm not at my best, I will continue to mess up.  I'll feel like I'm investing everything I have into work.  I maintain that I am, but I do not think that's anything to be proud of, happy about, or at all positive.  My personal life is falling apart because I have nothing left to give.  My work is falling apart because I'm miserable in my personal life.

It's a sick and painful cycle.

There's nothing that I can do about all of the pain from work until I reach into myself and find what it is that makes me happy, that keeps my going.  What keeps me whole?  What keeps me healthy?

I wanted to share this because I know I'm not the only person that struggles in this particular way.  I know I'm not the only person that's depressed, struggling to realize that failure is okay, unable to see the ways that we're failing ourselves, and blinded to the fact that, in failing ourselves, we are effectively failing the people we work to help as well.

Friday, February 27, 2015

"Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time."

It's been quite a while since my last post, so I hope this can make up for it.

I know that wasn't necessarily the best post to leave off on, but the past couple of months I've been really focused on the brokenness inside of me that has made me so angry at God.  It takes a lot for me to admit this, because I feel like I should be stronger, better, more resilient, less sensitive, and all around a better, more God-centric person.  It's not uncommon to be broken.  In some way, we all are.

The problem is, however, that we don't recognize the ways in which we aren't whole.   We don't realize these places, and because of that we blame God when things go wrong in our lives.  We don't look at the ways we are failing ourselves; instead, we look at God and claim that He is failing us.

A large portion of my prayers involve some sort of bartering or anger.  I'm impatient, stubborn, completely ungrateful, and a whole list of other things that I wasn't raised to be.  I have a difficult time recognizing that my shortcomings lead to my disappointment.  Why should God do what I want Him to do?

Let me tell you why.  It's my life.  I have it all planned out and it's perfect.  So, if it's so great, why doesn't God just give it to me?

Well, I know for a fact that every plan of mine that has fallen through has been a blessing.  I was going to marry my first love.  I was going to marry my second, too.  I was going to go to a better school. I was going to be in a different sorority. I was going to transfer to graduate from a bigger, "better" school.  I was going to be in grad school for Occupational Therapy right now.  I was going to be in Nashville doing my YAV year.  I was going to be living near my family.  Victoria and I were going to be living together.  I was going to move to London, then Amsterdam.  I was going to join the Peace Corps.  I was going to go to Candler School of Theology.  I was going to do all sorts of things. I had amazing, fulfilling plans.  They just weren't really my plans.

I'll start at the beginning. . .

I was in love with this really smart, complex, funny guy.  He was really cool and has so much potential to be the most amazing husband and father, but not to me or my children.  I love him.  I always will. But he and I were absolutely horrible for one another.  Like, seriously terrible.  We tried to make it work at two very different and complex stages of our lives and it was a disaster.

I would have married him anyways.  I thought that was what I was supposed to do.  I was trying to live a life that wasn't my own.  I don't know whose life it was, but it wasn't mine.  It wasn't his.  Neither of us were meant for that life, but I think at one point we would have done it anyways.

Where would we be now, though?  I wouldn't be in San Antonio.  I wouldn't be living out what God is calling me to do.  I'd be ignoring my call.  I'd be living in some married dystopia. My skills would be wasted in someone else's world.

What if I had gone to a better school? What if I had joined a well known, southern sorority?

The most painful thing that comes out of these situations is that I would have never met Victoria.  The one person that puts up with all of my crazy and doesn't have to. I like to fain independence, but I can promise you that, without her, I'd be lost. I never would have done as well in school.  I never would have found the love of my sorority again.  I never would have gone to Russia.  I never would have stayed at West Georgia, and I never would have gone for it with my second love.

Doing these things would have taken away the single most amazing person that I choose to have in my life.  Okay, so she puts up with me.  Not vice versa.

Continuing the journey of bad plans. . .

There was another guy.  He was great until he wasn't.  He was smart.  He challenged me.  He made me want to grow up.  He was also manipulative, self-satisfied, and made me feel like absolute crap about myself.  He was making me live the life that he thought I should be living, and it definitely didn't reflect what I wanted to be.

The point of sharing that recent stumble is to say that there has always been the expectation that my life be like my aunt's.  I would marry some older, fascinating man and we would go all over the world together and be able to avoid the painful reality of life until it knocked us on our asses.

It's easier to live a life when you know how it turns out, even if it's not how you want your own life to be.

I know how her life ends up.  I can follow that prompt in my own life too, and that's what I was trying to do.  I wanted to find the easier path.  I wanted to avoid life for as long as I could possibly stand to.

Let me rephrase that. . .I wanted to avoid my life for as long as I could stand to.

Why is that though?

I could say that I don't want to face the unknown.  I could say that I just don't know what I want.  I could say that another person planning my life takes the responsibility off of me and I need that as the forever youngest child that can't stand to grow up.

I'd be lying if I said any of that.

The scary, painful truth is that I don't see myself as deserving of living the life that I want.  I don't believe I deserve to be happy.  I wanted to live my life surrounded by people that I did feel like I deserved.  I wanted to be with people that made me miserable because that's as good as it should get for me.  I wanted to live my aunt's, my sister's, my cousins', my mom's, anyone else's life knowing that it would leave me miserable.  I'm proud of each of these women.  They're happy, but I've always known that doing what they've done and living how they've lived isn't for me.

I also don't see any of my goals or accomplishments as anything special. I am always comparing myself to the women in my life.  It's always been a competition for me. Everyone else is doing A LOT better than I am.

For instance, my sister has always been prettier, more agreeable, a better listener, she followed directions in school, she joined a better known sorority, she is quieter, and people like her more.  My cousins have always been prettier, more athletic, more popular, they went to better schools, they have better manners, and can literally do anything (seriously, I've seen them in pig scrambles).  My friends have always been more talented and agreeable.

In this competition I've created, I'm losing. I'm never good enough.  Ever.  I never will be.

By comparing myself to these amazing women (they really are amazing, even when I'm not comparing myself to them), I create a life for myself that isn't really mine, and, when it is mine, I claim it's not good enough.

Why would God make things seem so right for me if they weren't good enough?

He wouldn't.

You see, I'm starting to realize that not being good enough isn't a thing. We have lives that are meant to be lived authentically, and that's simply not possible if we are always looking at other's with envy.

I asked Erin what it is that she envies about me.  She gave me answers that I probably should have expected.  I've always envied how nice she was.  It made people like her.  She's likable.  There are things about me that I see as unlikable because they don't fit into this idea of "nice" that I have.  She told me that she envies how willing I am to express my opinion even if it's not accepted.  I'm not afraid to share that and step on toes.  It's not very "nice" of me.  She wants to be less agreeable.  She told me she wanted to put herself out there more, and I hate that about myself.

My cousins have worked their butts off to get into the schools they did.  They have amazing grades.  They have done amazing things to live the lives they're being called to lead.  I'm not meant to change the world in that way though.  They're meant to work with children to create a better future (Courtney), heal the sick so that they're able to go on changing the world in their own way (Caroline), and help people gain or regain the ability to communicate for themselves (Abigail).  These are skills that God has blessed them with, and not me.

Isn't it funny how we idealize things about other people that we don't have?  Again, I'm forced to ask: if life's a competition, who's winning?

I'm good at other things.  I can walk up to strangers and help them to feel comfortable (Erin's words, not mine).  That fits well in my YAV year because all of my clients are strangers.  If I can't walk up to them confidently they'd eat me alive.  I'm always facing men that think that, because I'm a woman, I couldn't possibly be as smart as they are.

I can deal with this because, according to my sister, I don't judge people based on things like this.  I accept their beliefs.  Do I think that it's completely ridiculous and stupid that a uterus makes you less than a man? Absolutely.  Am I willing to look at them with the same love as a client that comes from a culture that reveres women? It bothers me, but I accept their beliefs and hope that I'm able to, at least somewhat, prove that the beliefs themselves are ill founded and ridiculous.

It's our weaknesses, as much as it is our strengths, that make us able to do what it is that God is calling us to do.  God makes us these completely screwed up and perfect beings that can do exactly what He needs us to do to make this world suck just a little less.  So, this competition makes no sense.  Yeah, I'm really bad at paying attention to directions and following authority.  I'm not athletic. I'm not "nice" and I don't have patience to learn to play music.  But do I need to be? Probably not.  God made me this way.  He made me apathetic and willing to lose everything in hopes of gaining something small.  He made me stubborn.  He made me to trust my own intuition and feelings over the opinions of others.

He made each of us with things that we look at and hope to change.  I'm aggressive, impatient, opinionated, and everything that I wish I wasn't, but I am absolutely, 100% how God intended me to be.

My plans are going to fail.  I make really bad decisions for myself.  I'm happy with them and where they've gotten me, but if I had to live with them in the ways that I've planned, I'd be miserable.  God has made us imperfect, but imperfection is not an excuse to live a life that you aren't meant to live.  Your life is your own.  No one else's.  At the end of the day, your personality is God given (I mean environment too, but I think that's God given so. . .), and that's beautiful.  But, no matter how stubborn and smart you are, your plans are meant to fall through and fail.  It's a good thing.  I promise.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Anger is all I know how to express at this moment.

I've been mad at God before.  I've been very mad at God before, but this is one of the two times that I can remember wanting to physically hurt God.  If He were standing right in front of me I'd give him one good punch.

I'm getting really pissed about the fact that God keeps taking the young, the strong, the faithful, and the good.

Today, one of the strongest people I've ever known was called home.

I don't understand God's timing.  I don't understand this senseless pain, and I certainly don't understand why it's always, always, always the people that give the most light to this horrible world that get taken so soon.

I know that one day, just as I did when Josh passed, I'll find the beauty in this situation.  Right now, however, the anger is consuming me and I'm going to let it.  Not even God should be able to get away with something so cruel and not face consequences.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"God understands our prayers even when we can't find the words to say them." Romans 8:26

I apologize for not posting in over a month.  I realized that I had typed out a draft, but never posted it.  As I read over the draft it felt wrong to post now.  I feel as though blogs should have something to say about the present.  Those feelings and words don't accurately reflect how I feel about my journey right now.

How do I feel about my journey right now?

That's a really good question.  And I think I have a really crummy answer: I don't know.

I feel like God is leading me through a maze that's confusing and slightly painful.  The problem with being in this maze is that I am trying to rely on my own senses and ignoring where God is trying to take me.  I'm really bad about that, as I'm sure most of us are.  We know best, right?

Well, that's my mindset.  With this mindset I've come across plenty of frustration and found myself deeper and deeper inside the maze.  I can't get out.  I'm completely stuck.

Ignoring God and relying on myself, my emotions, and my logic has left me in disaster before.  We are stubborn creatures.  I know I am.  If I have my mind set on something I'll do anything in order to get it.

Why, if we've learned time after time that our own strengths will ultimately fail us, do we not rely on God?

 "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11.

I remember this sometimes and laugh to myself.  I laugh because I have my own plans.  I have grand plans of what I want for myself.  Looking back, I've had plans like this my entire life.  Plans for my future that have, thankfully, fallen through.  I've been happier without these things than I ever could have been with them.  I try to imagine my life if my plans had worked and I'm miserable.  I'm missing something. 

Why is it that I still try and make my own plans? 

I have no answer to that question, nor do I expect any of you to have an answer.  

I do have a question to pose.  Something to think about and reflect on.

First, I'll tell you how it came about.  

The other day I got upset at work and began to cry.  My friend, Ibrahim, was worried that it was something he had said or done. When I composed myself enough to explain to him what had happened he told me something along these lines, "it's okay.  You have a heart from God, and that means that it's weak and easily hurt.  God wants us to be hurt by the things that hurt him, so He gives us hearts that are easily broken." 

This made me think.  Why would God want us to be weak? Why is this a good thing? And, as Christians, can we believe in a God that would intentionally make us feel pain in a stronger way? 

I believe that God gave me a vulnerable heart, but I also really reject that idea.  Why would God make me in a way that sets me up for so much pain? Why would God make any of us in a way that would set us up for this kind of pain? 

This is open for discussion, because I really am interested in all of the ideas that can be brought to the table.

I appreciate your continued support and time.  


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

When we first dropped our bags on apartment floors. Took our broken hearts, put them in a drawer. Everybody here was someone else before.

One of the most common things that YAVs experience during their year is a crippling feeling of loneliness.  We're surrounded by people going through the exact same thing at our sites and all over the world, but we feel so alone.  Like there isn't anyone else going through the exact same thing.

I've found, through actually taking the time to reach out to other YAVs, that my loneliness, my homesickness, and the confusion I'm feeling are not new.  I'm not going through them alone at all.

The YAV program does a fantastic job of getting us connected to others in the program before we even meet the people that we'll be living with during the year.  This has proven to be one of the most amazing gifts that I've gotten from this program.

When I'm having a bad day and I feel like I can't talk to my roommates for whatever reason, I have such an amazing group of people that I can reach out to.  There have been several times in the past few weeks when I've felt so lost and like I'm doing everything so wrong, and all I have to do is pick up the phone and simply reach out to a few of the friends I made and I realize that I'm not the only one that's lost.  I'm not the only one that feels like they're doing something wrong.  I'm surrounded by other young adults that tell me I'm normal.  I'm not failing miserably.  I'm one of many.

The YAV program has given me such a strong network of people that I can turn to, and I haven't even told you about my roommates!

My roommates are the most supportive, loving people I've found since I joined my sorority, but even Alpha Xi Delta can't compare.

Before I am accused of blasphemy, let me explain.  When I went through recruitment I was looking for like-minded women.  I wanted people that were like me, or at least people that were like who I wanted to be.  I found that.  I found a group of amazing women that helped me grow up.  They helped me through heartbreaks.  They helped me find myself (at least all of myself that I have at this moment).  Those were an amazing four years.

Sorry for getting sidetracked. Today is Alpha Xi Delta's initiation and it's made me really think about relationships, which is partly where this blog came from.

My roommates and I were put in to a situation with people from all over the country, with vastly different backgrounds, and, often, conflicting opinions about how day to day things should go.

They are not people that would normally walk up to me and strike up friendship (I'm basing this off of the social psychology class I took last spring).  We have little in common most of the time, but that's the beauty.  I'm learning more and more to see things from the perspective of others.  I'm learning to take advice from an almost completely logical stand point (lookin' at you, Caroline).  I'm learning so much more about myself than I thought possible because of the people that I live with.

I never thought I'd form significant relationships with anyone here.  I know, I'm super positive.  I never thought I'd be able to turn to and lean on these people, but I really have.  Going through these difficult weeks (largely self inflicted), would have been impossible had it not been for the love and support of my roommates.

I haven't felt love like this from (practically) strangers in a long time.  These aren't strangers anymore.  I have found a family in San Antonio.  I belong here.  I belong with these people.

I don't know how I could ever than the YAV program for the gift of all of these other young adults.  I don't know how to thank my church for making this possible. I don't know how to thank all of you for your thoughts and prayers. And I definitely don't know how to thank the people that have made me belong in this strange city.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

I have no living grandparents.  This is something that's never really bothered me.  I didn't know my Dad's parents very well when they were living, because we lived away and the sad reality is that people drift apart.  My mom's parents had both died before I was born.  Living far away from my family meant that I found family in other places. 

I grew up in a small, Methodist church outside of Atlanta. I remember, in high school, my youth minister asked me to get up and say something about what the church meant to me, and I can remember one thing that I said.  I stood in front of people that I had mostly known my entire life and was able to tell them that I had been raised with more than just two sets of grandparents.  I was one of the lucky ones that had at least five sets of people that I loved and turned to as if they were my own.

One of the men that I considered my own passed away today.  Looking back on my childhood and thinking about my church, very few of those memories don't involve him. He, and the few others, were the people that showed me how much love can be found in the church.  I looked to these people and found the ways in which God calls us to treat others, how God wants us to spend our time, and how Christ's love is found within the people closest to us. They let us into their families and made me feel as though I belonged to something so much bigger than what my genetics gave me. 

In Doug's case, I have learned how a strength and faith in God can get you through the toughest and darkest times.  He has faced trials with a grace that is unrivaled.  

The world lost an amazing, funny, and loving man today. I know that tomorrow the sun is going to shine a little brighter with him looking down on the earth he left behind.  

My thoughts and prayers are with the Strickland family.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I have wanted to write this entry for nearly two weeks.  I'm sorry it's been so long since my last post, but there has been nothing else that I've wanted to write.  This has been all that came to mind.

One day a group of men came in to Catholic Charities about ten minutes before it was time for us to close up shop and leave.  I was kind of annoyed because it was almost time for me to go and the day had gone by at a snail's pace.  The men were clients of mine and I asked them how I could help them and did my best to answer their questions while our entire office shut down.  They thanked me for my help and left.  I walked out behind them and made my way to the bus stop.

I was alone for the first time all day and was finally able to unwind a little bit before I had to go to my house and be in a group setting once again.  The introverted side of me loves every second of my afternoon bus ride because I am under no obligation to speak to anyone.

My worst fear was realized right as I looked up.  The four clients that I had just been talking to in the office were making their way to the bus stop.  MY bus stop.  My quiet time was about to be ruined.  Dread was building up inside of me.  They were going to ask me questions.  Questions that I didn't know the answer to.  Ask me to try and help them in ways that I couldn't within my job description.  I did what any socially awkward person would do: put my headphones in.  I know I shouldn't have.  It's a sign of disrespect to the people around you.  What kind of high horse was I on anyways? These were men that had served our country when they were under no obligation to do so.  They were men that had risked their lives and well-being to work against the Taliban in anyway possible.

I jumped ahead of myself. Let me get back to the point. . .

I had my headphones in and was doing my best to not make eye contact when one of them tapped me on the shoulder.

"Victoria, are you a volunteer like Marie was?"

Marie, my predecessor, is still very much held in the hearts of all my clients.  I hear a lot about her.  So much about her that I added her on Facebook because I felt like I had known her for years.  She was an amazing volunteer and went above and beyond for everyone she worked with and I'm just trying to make it through the day without offending someone and fill out food stamp applications without screwing things up.

Again, I've gotten off topic, but, Marie, if you're reading this just know that you are missed and you are AWESOME.  Your year in Texas absolutely made an impact on so many people.

Back to the story. . .

I told him that I was a volunteer, but Marie and I came from different programs, but the goal of the program seems, to me, very similar.

Guys, this is where the story actually starts to see a purpose. . .

He looked at me and said, "So why are you doing this? Is it so you'll get something good or do you feel like you have to? Why are you here?"

Wow, why am I here? Good question, (name removed for confidentiality purposes and because I don't have a cool nickname for him).  I looked at him, in that moment where I was taken so off guard and said that there was a bible verse (Matthew 25:40) that I felt like I was called to live out.  I could tell he thought that this answer meant, to him, that I was obviously working towards some greater goal in my own life.  Which, I guess, is true.

You would think that this story is about me and how I was finally asked questions about what I was doing, but it's not at all.  I had been asked a few times why I was doing this work, but I had yet to sit and talk to other people about what brought them here.  I hadn't felt like I could.  I had asked the three guys that I work closely with about their lives, but until this moment it hadn't realized that people had any interest in sharing their stories with me.

So I took the leap.

"What made you come to the US?"

(Name Removed): We worked for the US military in Afghanistan.

"But why would you want to leave your home?" I have asked this question plenty of times since then, and have never gotten an answer that would make me want to move thousands of miles away from my family.

Most of the time they say that the opportunity was there, they liked what the States had to offer and were hoping to continue their education here and make their lives all over again.

"What did you guys study in school?" At this point it was only my two clients that had any interest in talking to me.  The other two men weren't concerned and, quite frankly, have much more reserved personalities than the other men.

(Name removed): I didn't finish university, but I hope to start on an IT degree when I'm allowed to go to school here.

Jack (you'll see why I call him this shortly): I studied politics in Afghanistan, and I want to study that here as well.

The bus came, and I was asking him some silly questions about politics.  Probably the stupidest question was, "Oh, do you like American politics?" Uh, duh he does, Tori.

Jack ended up sitting next to me and I got to hear him talk more about himself.  I don't think I'm going to do his story justice by any means, but I'll attempt to make it as amazing as it was.

Jack was born in Afghanistan in the eighties.  When he was six months old Russia invaded the nation, and his parents were both shot and killed, leaving him and his two brothers orphaned.  Luckily, his grandparents were able to take him and his brothers in and they raised them.

I've heard a lot of people talk about people that they admire, but the look in Jack's eyes when he talked about his grandmother was one of complete adoration.  He looked as if he had been raised by a saint which, I'm sure, is how he looks at this woman that devoted her life to raising there more children after hers were grown and had been murdered.

I asked him about his politics classes and how they were explained in his middle eastern society and he told me that the world was split up into two major sections.  The section that was under the influence of the United States and the section that was under the influence of Russia.  Which sounded a lot like the Americanism vs. Communism class that both of my parents took in place of Civics in high school.

I keep getting off track slightly. . .

The most amazing thing about this man was the time he had spent working for the military.

Jack first went to the American army looking for work when he was sixteen.  A man looked at him and said, "Son, you're going to have to change your birthday if you want to work for us.  You have to be at least eighteen."  So he did just that.  He made himself two years older, which was fairly easy for him.  He's at least 6'3'' and looks like he's been growing a beard since he was five years old.

With documents changed he began work for the US government that lasted nearly a decade, and, to this day, his papers make him two years older than he is.

During his time working for our military he earned the nickname "Jack" because they told him that he was, in many ways, like Jack Bauer from 24.  He earned the reputation because of his bravery and his willingness to put himself in incredibly dangerous situations if it meant that he would be able to help someone else.

Jack was blown up.  Literally.  He was in the hospital for a year and in a coma for 100 days.  Today, he lives with shrapnel in his legs that can't be taken out because if it's removed he could lose the ability to walk and feel where it was.  He lives without feeling in his feet.  Insides that were pretty much torn to shreds and a soft spot on his head where he's missing part of his skull.

All because he was attempting to save the life of a friend.  Because he volunteered for a mission that he wasn't even supposed to go on.

I asked him how his grandmother handled him being in so much danger and hurt for so long.  "I never told her.  She died not knowing that I almost died, because she wouldn't have been able to handle it."

Jack's story is an extraordinary one.  He could honestly write a book that's turned in to a hit action movie one day, but it proves a point that I don't think that I could have made on my own.  Many men that I have the privilege of working with are here because it's not safe for them in their home countries anymore.  It's not safe because they made a choice to join our army.

When you question the type of people that I work for, if you think that they're not worthy of coming to our nation and getting all of the rights and privileges that being an American entails, ask yourself if you'd be willing to make the sacrifices that many of them have made, because, unless you were in our military, the answer is most likely no.