Monday, September 19, 2005

Who You Gonna Call? by TM Gege C. Sugue

(Toastmasters Speech Number Two – Speak with Sincerity)

Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Toastmasters, good evening. Let me start this speech with a quick question and answer session. I throw out some questions, and you throw back answers, okay?

Question number 1: When your water pipes and your toilet drains are busted, who are you gonna call?

Now, when your television screen suddenly just goes pffft, and all your cable channels disappear, who are you gonna call?

And when you go home one evening, and there is not a scrap of food in the house, and you’re also craving for all-meat topping on a thin crust pizza, who are you going to call?

Now what if it is 11 o’clock on a Saturday evening and you’re alone in your office in a strange country where less than 10% of the population can speak in English, and you’re down on your knees in the dark trying to lock your office door and your key just won’t work, who are you going to call?

Yes, that’s a tough one. I was in that position, and for a moment I did not know whom to call.

Let me tell you the story:

It was late Saturday evening. I was the only one in the office in Hanoi, in Vietnam. I was working on a complicated excel file. It was our product-pricing scheme, an item that has gone through countless revisions. I had to complete it by that evening. The next day, I had an early morning flight for which I have not yet even prepared. I was feeling the pressure. And my brain was not functioning as well as it should. I have been working on this file all week. I have been working hard on a million other things all week. I have not had much sleep. I was exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally.

My eyes were blurry with all the numbers on the screen. They were blurred as well with tears. I have been crying most of the afternoon because I had a shouting match with our Finance director. I felt bad for getting all-emotional and for allowing one person to get the better of me.

I was having a pity-me party, dwelling on how frustrated I was. I was frustrated because it seemed that my job consisted mainly of putting out fires. Cleaning up messes, solving urgent problems, correcting mistakes. Just when one problem is solved, not a few seconds later, a new problem pops up.

I felt that things were not within my control.

I felt incompetent. I questioned why I was there in the first place. I thought I was there to add value and impart the knowledge that I had, but how could I do that when I cannot even control the situations around me.

I felt incompetent.

Incompetence is something very hard for me to deal with. I work hard. I fancy myself smart. I try to keep updated with all sorts of information. I value my work experiences as having shaped me to be the good manager that I thought I was. And yet, then I felt so incompetent.

It was very hard for my ego to accept my incompetence. I tell myself, “Gege, you’re good. You’re good at what you do”. But with all that I was experiencing in Vietnam, it felt like a lie. It felt like I was not any good.

All these thoughts filled my head, and I just gave up on the pricing scheme I was working on, and decided to pack up and head home.

Since I was the only one in the office, I had to lock the door behind me.

It was one of those double glass door entries, which you lock by using a key on the bottom part of the door.

I was locking the door, and something was wrong. The latch won’t catch and every time I pulled away the key, the door would remain unlocked. And that was a big problem. I could not leave the office unlocked over the weekend. That would have been too irresponsible.

But I could not figure out how to lock the door on my own.

I thought to myself “Who could help me in this situation?”

Using my mobile phone, I called the office administrator asking for his help. Let me remind you that it was close to midnight. Of course, the poor guy was muttering that it was too late, he was in bed, and there was nothing he could do for me. I had to figure it out myself.

I was starting to feel the desperation. Sleeping in the office was not an option because I had to catch a plane very early in the morning.

I seeked help by going down to the building lobby and looked for a guard, somebody, anybody who can help me. I was relieved to find a man, but it was a short-lived relief as I tried to explain to him the situation and realized he did not speak a word of English. I used up all my skills in charades and sign language, but all I got from him was a laugh and some Vietnamese words that I, of course, could not understand.

It seemed hopeless.

I took the elevator back up to the 7th floor. On the way there, I was crying. More accurately, I was bawling, practically screaming. I screamed to God, because there was no one else to scream at. I screamed to God to help me out. I had no one else to call, and I had no idea what to do.

Let me tell you something about myself, I am mechanically challenged. I am the exact opposite of Mc Gyver. I always had my handyman husband to do the mechanical stuff for me. And in this situation, I was completely clueless. And my handyman was hundreds of miles away.

So, I just prayed and cried out to God to help me. He was my last and only hope.

And so I went back to the door. In the dark, I got on my knees and prayed once more for God to help me.

As my hands touched the floor, I felt something, and I realized that I had broken my key chain, and I was holding a piece of metal from that key chain. Now, something (and I knew it was not my mechanically challenged brain) told me to reach out into the lock hole on the floor, and fish out something from there. And I did just that. I put my finger into the small hole, and I drew out a tiny particle of my broken key chain. Then I tried to lock the door again, and alleluia, the door locked!

And I was able to leave the office. On the way out, I was crying and laughing at the same time. Praising God and thanking Him for saving me once again, as He has done so many times in the past.

Some may call it luck, some may call it common sense, I call it God.

I called on God, and He let the Holy Spirit tell me what to do.

In Jeremiah 33:3, God says: “Call to me and I will answer you, and I will tell you things which you do not know.”

In desperate situations, whom are you going to call?

In situations of utter incompetence and complete ignorance, whom are you going to call?
When there is no one around to help you, there is One Person who is always there just waiting to be called to help. And He will answer you and even tell you things you do not know.

And that’s exactly what He did on that Saturday evening in Hanoi.

As I dwelled about that event in my life, I realized that all my depression and frustration were products of my ego-centeredness. I had relied too much on my own strength, my own knowledge, my own skills to get me through something that was just beyond me. So much so that when things were not going well, I blamed myself for everything. Every little mistake was my fault. I just wasn’t good enough, smart enough, experienced enough. I focused too much on trying to achieve something to impress others with what I knew and what I could do, that when I couldn’t do enough, I just felt inadequate, incompetent.

I had made it too much about me. When all along it simply wasn’t about me at all.

That Saturday evening I learned that in every situation, there is Somebody I can always call on. He is the expert in everything, even in mechanical situations such as doors that won’t lock

Let me repeat what God says in Jeremiah 33:3:
“Call to me, and I will answer you, and tell you things you do not know.

There are a lot of things I do not know. But there is one thing I do know. And for this I praise and thank God every day of my life.

I know that my salvation is not about how good I am. It is about how good God is.

Good evening.

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