By Janet Karim
A wise man will hear and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: to understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings. — Proverbs 1:5-6
My sister in-law once told me when she learned that I was going to a special meeting in my diplomatic work, advised me to carry a tall ladder. I thought over and over this advice, wondering what she meant. I later learnt it was for me to go, see, and establish long-lasting, and helpful ties to be used to help me in the interim or later. This advice perfectly went hand in hand with former Malawi Life President H. Kamuzu Banda who always harped repeatedly that education never ends.
These past few weeks these two teachable tenets unfolded over several lessons where some tall ladders I carried have continued to cause benefits, while I am learning lessons even during moments I least expect to get taught. The moral of the story is that one is never too old to carry a ladder or to learn something new. As an instructor and home health care professional, the lessons I gain daily crisscross, interweaving the synergies enhancing both skills and knowledge.
In two separate postings in the care professional jobs, I have been asked to perform tasks that are technically not part of the posting. After some deep thought as to what or why I undertook the tasks, I recalled another in-law who had given me two important rules about being employed. The employment rules were:
Rule 1: The boss is never wrong; and
Rule 2: When the boss is wrong, refer to Rule 1.
It was while performing the tasks of one of the peculiar requests that after questioning myself; as I scattered bird feed, dog food for birds and wild animals that come to the back yard, as I wondered “what in the world was I doing”(?), I brought to my mind’s eye: the boss is never wrong. I told myself “do the job, and do it joyfully, gladly, and with a heart-deep smile.”
I was performing a task asked of me by my boss, I was beholding the boss as never wrong; but more importantly, I was doing something that made an elderly person incredibly happy. Hers is a desire to (like the old lady who sold bird seeds in the market square for people to feed the birds in Mary Poppins movie), feed the birds and other tame wild animals that come to her backyard.
The joy registered on her face as I brought in animal feed packages from the grocery and then spoon out the feeds on her porch, made me super overjoyed. It also underscored a lesson I learned that as people age, there are things that they desire be done, they are resolute, determined, unwavering. The bigger lesson is of my own humanity about taking care of God’s creation. This is a big ladder that I carry in my jobs.
Lastly two long ladders carried in the past 15 and 35 years I have come to appreciate this past week has been staying connected with people is important and can be a source of help in times of need, and sometimes connecting with other people leads to enormous benefit and assistance, much more than I could do or imagine possible.
In the past three weeks, I have used my tall ladders, which have helped open doors both professionally and socially. But it is in the area of my connecting people that has brought me extraordinary joy. In my previous station as a diplomat, I connected with and have stayed connected with a co-advocate of the rights of seniors. I have also connected with and stayed connected with a health worker who established a health training college. The latter and I have collaborated on issues such as training of home health care providers in Malawi.
It is well-known that the majority of home health care giving is for the elderly (senior) members of the community. Earlier this year I connected my former co-advocate for seniors with the owner of the health training college. This past Wednesday, the former advocate for seniors phoned me to inform me that he is planning to travel to Malawi, and in collaboration with the health training college owner enhance their works.
While I am doing cartwheels and leapfrogs all over the place, the big take away lesson here is that we do not meet people for the mere sake of meeting people. Whether it takes 15 years, or 35 years, there is a reason meetings take place. We must take advantage of the opportunity we have in meeting people: are there ways you can help them? Are there ways they can help you? We should always keep the tall ladder close to us when we meet people.
We should also learn from the passions of the elderly people around us; they could be the tall ladder lesson to our humanity.