All Upon a Saturday Night

My friends Ghena and Jonathan (with whom I sort of live) had a friend in town this weekend. His name is also Jonathan, so for the sake of the following post, we’ll call him Brown.

#11 I interview horribly

[especially when I don’t know it’s an interview until half way through]

Brown works at World Vision in the southern end of what is known to most as Seattle, Washington. It’s technically Federal Way, and it’s hidden on a curvy road between looming trees and dark houses and creeping fog: or so it was the night a friend and I got lost and stumbled upon the glowing sign that gleamed in the night, World Vision: The largest NonProfit in the World. It ought to have been a beacon of hope, but at that point  it was more a sign of how incredibly lost we were, fumbling through the highways and back streets of Washington.

I told Ghena that I was going to ask him for a job when he came to visit, and I hoped she wasn’t offended or put out by such audacity. She sort of smirked and said: “if you have the gumption to ask for a job, go right ahead,” which seemed a funny way to accept my proposal of meeting someone and asking them to hire me in the same conversation. I cocked my head to the side and asked what that was supposed to mean. “It means, he can be kind of intimidating.”

“Intimidating? How?”

At which point, Jonathan looked up from the laptop and said without batting an eye: “He’s a very attractive man.”

And thus, I was prepared to ask Brown for a job at World Vision pending a thousand variables that are slowly coming together. It happened on Saturday night, after a late evening run of only two miles and an even later dinner of seared steak, baked potatoes, crisply steamed green beans sprinkled with garlic that I added to the pot just a little too late, and Dancing Bull to drink. It was perfect. The children were in bed after baths and Bible time, my cheeks were flushed for the snapping cold of the run, and the conversation had wandered between passive righteousness, broken  engagements and the titles of our future best sellers. We removed to the kitchen finally, at which point Jonathan quickly disappeared to bed (having been up since 3AM). And then it was just the three of us, finishing the dishes, climbing around each other in the narrow kitchen, laughing awkwardly and familiarly until Brown eventually took a seat on the stool and said he’d help but it just seemed a little crowded with him. And besides, he wanted to munch on the un-finished granola that I had neglected. “I don’t know, Sara,” he said thoughtfully as he plunged his well licked fingers back into the sticky blue  bowl, “French Onion Soup and granola? I think we might have a chef Sara on our hands,” or some such nonsense. I distinctly remember blushing slightly, and the tips of my ears may have burned despite the low temperature of the house. After all, it has been a while since a boy (in this case a man) suggested that I had any ability in the kitchen. I must have beamed in spite of myself and the worn out baggy sweatshirt whose had dragged in my food at throughout dinner. And then it started, as I was bent over the dishwasher, rearranging and sorting, Brown asked with another mouthful of gooey oats and flax, “so, why Pakistan?” But he didn’t exaggerate the name of the country like so many others are prone to do when they ask the same question. It was simple curiosity. There was no judgement, no surprise, no fear or worry, no confusion and finally: there was no belittling of me or my desires as though I am childish, innocent and hopelessly naive. It was, for lack of a better way to express the sentiment, a desire to understand.*

I gave him the long story, because he said to start there since he could always ask me to fast forward. We walked through the halls of Beslan School, looked into the hopeless, enraged eyes of the shooters and the faces of the children silenced with wild fear. He sat beside me in class under Dr. Davis announcing to fellow students that “Miss B___ has a death wish,” and sorting through articles from newspapers and magazines that kept me up to date on all things Chechen and more broadly: the happenings of Central Asia. He joined me on the floor of my hotel room in Vladimir, laughing outloud at God when I was told to come back to the states. And most recently, he saw the delight in my face when Joy asked if I was serious about Pak and then said lightly “Good! ‘Cause we’ve been brainstorming what you can do while you’re there,” as matter of factly as though I had already bought a ticket and acquired a visa. And then, after all that, when we’d gone through my plans after I return (which are entirely theoretical, involve two states and several countries, school loans and public transportation), I asked the question pretty point blank: “so that’s the plan, sort of (uneasy pause of building up my courage as I lean around the microwave from the silverware drawer) unless you want to higher me at World Vision.” At which point we all sort of laughed and I said, “of course, I’m only half joking. Well–actually–I’m not joking at all,” by this time I had come back to the counter by the sink and was leaning forward–perhaps a little too earnestly–and I looked him in the eye as I asked more seriously, “do you want to higher me?”

And thus came the interview. It was full of those frustrating questions for which I have no answers:

what do you do better than anyone else?

who is your best friend? (Caitlin) and if she had to describe you in three words what would they be?**

what does your perfect job look like?

why do you want to work for World Vision?

and a million other questions, all of which I answered rather poorly. I don’t know what I am very good at, I snapped cheerfully that I am simply aware of my own inadequacies and listed compassion as both a blessing and curse. I mourn with people. I rejoice with them. I’m good with people, I said. I have loads of cross cultural experience. I can write a flipping good prayer letter cause I’ve been doing it all my life. I can raise $3000 in 5 weeks, I can argue with an embassy for a passport, I can write and I can sing and none of these have anything to do with a job at World Vision. I rambled a bit, I walked around things in circles, I avoided some questions altogether until he pressed a little harder, I said Caitlin would tell you I am a little reckless and if it was anyone other than Brown I think that would have been the wrong thing to say (Brown had a flicker of amusement in his eyes, and I knew he was thinking about Pak).

And I didn’t realize it was an interview until he said that if I didn’t know what I was better at than anyone else, how was he supposed to know? And how, if he couldn’t know, would he manage to figure out where I would fit in the World Vision group?

I think the worst part came today when I reappeared at Ghena and Jonathan’s house to help with dinner, spend some time online, trade out books*** and sort through children during “club chaos.” Jonathan came home with a book that he teasingly handed to me, something from work on interviewing skills. We laughed, I was genuinely amused. He asked me some questions from the middle section of the instruction book (as opposed to the thinner work-book-looking-thing that was left on the counter) and I tried to re-live the answers I had given Brown for those same queries. We laughed again, especially when Jonathan admitted he wouldn’t know how to answer the questions, despite having interviewed a host of people nearly twice his age in the past several weeks. It was sort of discouraging, realizing how I sold myself short because I’m still insecure. It was funny, to be sure, but the tears that gathered in the corner of my eyes had more to do with failing hope than pure laughter at my Saturday night debacle.

Brown, surprisingly, was not intimidating. He was a bit like Jason, and sounded (literally, in tone, in volume and inflection) like Keeleh. He was easy to talk to, and I was not overly flustered–a point I had prided myself on until Ghena told me that he had been gentle and chosen not to be intimidating.

Which frustrated me all the more–have I nothing from which to gather pride?


I officially loathe them.


*or so I took it that way, from the casualness of his tone, that he had no previous thoughts as to my insanity or stupidity, but genuinely wanted to know why.

**at which point I used phrases and informed Brown that phrases would have to count as single words. He laughed and asked if one of the things Caitlin would say to describe me is that I redefine boundaries and definitions?

***I traded out Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I’m flying through them since I’m seeing the movie this weekend with friends and have a significant issue [read: egotistical-pride-issue] with reading books before seeing movies. Since I wasn’t allowed to read them growing up, I have to make up for lost time. I am 6 down, 1 to go in 2 weeks… Flying people. On a Nimbus 2000 broomstick.


4 responses

  1. I love your writing, but even more I just love you. 🙂

    I’m curious what you think about the Harry Potter series. I’ve avoided them for several reasons…one being the ?s about the spirituality and the other being my tendency to be obsessive and it possibly sucking my life away for months.

  2. well thanks for loving my writing. Brown actually thinks that might be somehow incorporated into the whole WV shindig. We’ll see. It would be spectacular if it worked.

    Harry Potter… I wasn’t allowed to read them as a child for the main reason you listed: questions about the spirituality. I have some thoughts on that, but it’s a very broad question. So, before we delve into that topic, answer me this (please), what specific questions do you have about the spiritual issues you are concerned might be brought up by HP?

  3. I don’t know. Just the vague notion that if I somehow read them that I’m endorsing other people going into witchcraft.

    I’m not really worried about it harming me spiritually…I read fantasy lit with magic in it all the time. But that brings up the sticking point that I find interesting…If HP is set in our current world and day…is that somehow more real in influencing people toward witchcraft than say…LOTR or Eragon which are set in fictional worlds?

    I’ll be honest…the whole obsession thing is a little more of my concern right now.

    With the little reader I have in my household, I’m guessing I’m going to be reading a lot of stuff to decide if its ok for her to read or even better to discuss things with her.

  4. I borrowed book number 5 from a friend with whom I am going to see the midnight showing. He asked why I hadn’t ever read them before and I said rather sheepishly that I wasn’t allowed to as a child. He frowned and said he thoguht that was ridiculous, “there are things that fiction, even fiction like Harry Potter, can teach which are entirely Biblical despite the surrounding plot line and periphery” (ok, it wasn’t that eloquent, but we’ll allow for a little paraphrasing). I agree with him.

    I don’t think we have to worry about people being moved towards witch craft. I mean, seriously, not at all. The world in which Harry Potter is set is mostly one in which Muggles (non-magical-folk) are kept completely in the dark as to the wizarding community. Most of the places where events take place are not in the real world. They are in places like Hogwarts, a school that is hidden in the North, or the Ministry of Magic, somewhere in London but enitrely separated and underground from the “real world.” There isn’t much action that takes place outside (or inside) places inhabited by Muggles. And so, the fact that it happens in a world akin to our own does not seem an apt reason for children to be moved towards witchcraft.

    As well, I don’t think we need to worry about that. There’s magic, there’s evil, there’s a lot of grown up stuff in the books. They get progressively darker as the series continues. A friend of mine said that as the characters mature so must the audience. I think the question ought to be more along the lines: do we engage our children in the books they are reading? I would not let a small child read The Deathly Hallows or Half Blood Prince. But that’s not because of hte magic. It’s because Voldemort (the bad guy: aka “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”) is an increasingly real and evil character. But I think there is a good deal that can be learned from the books.

    Harry and his friends struggle a lot with general teenage issues, but alongside that they are grappling with the problem of Harry being targeted by Voldemort and the increasingly obvious war that is bound to come. I think that is a great lesson for Christian kiddos to think about. Yeah, high school might be an awful experience, I get that. But wake up, kid. That’s not all that is going on. Those Muggles who disappeared on 14th street? (or in our case: those child soldiers who aren’t coming home tonight?) Not only are they waging a real live battle they are engaged in a spiritual one as well, and we should be not only aware of that but willing to take part. [lesson 1]

    Harry, Hermione, and Ron all struggle with loyalty. Harry is a whiny brat in the 5th book. Took me four whole days to read it because he’s so annoying. But Hermione and Ron CHOOSE to stand by him just as we must choose whether or not to stand by our friends, family and the church despite the circumstances, the inconveniences and the hurt we may sustain. [lesson 2]

    Voldemort is evil. He just is. There’s no getting around it. JK Rowling offers us some insight to his childhood: abandoned and left at an orphanage by a father who didn’t want him and a mother who died in birth. But in my mind, that’s no reason to seek world domination and kill of people at random for pleasure (could just be me…). He Who Must Not Be Named is feared and rightfully so. But people stand up to him, despite the efforts of the Ministry to cover up his return, and eventually their complicit help in his diabolical actions. Satan is pretty evil too. Is he real? Yeah. Thousands, maybe millions of people will always tells us that the devil with the pitchfork is a medieval idea. We’ve been misled, they’ll say, whether by a fellow with good intentions or someone trying to scare us into obedience and salvation. But that’s not the truth. The truth is, he’s out there. We allow him to inhabit us every time we are angry and sullen, every time we forget ourselves to be sinners in need of grace and retaliate against others as though we are somehow better. We have to stop denying that, as the Ministry of Magic must cease denying the return of the greatest enemy. It is only by recognizing the danger that we can begin to fight back, empowered by the Holy Spirit much the same as Harry is empowered by his friends, the love of his self sacrificing parents (who gave their lives for him), Dumbledore and the gifts of ancients gone before (like Gryffindor and his sword, or RAB and the locket, even Kreacher and Dobby the house-elves). We should go forward on the arms of the church, the shoulders of our past and do away with the injustice of national debt, argue for literacy, education and food among our poor and among the poor of hte world, even forgive the neighbours who neglect mowing their lawn. Evil is out there, whether we call it that or something else or deny it altogether. We need to fight it. [lesson 3]

    I don’t know. I think there are a lot of good things in Harry Potter. It is simple and yet well written. There are a thousand minute details that I am always missing, subversive plot lines that the movies ignore and characters that you both love and hate–sometimes both at once. I’m not worried about kids being witches and warlocks.

    I’m more worried about white suburban middle class western kids forgetting that there is a big world out there, and a war going on, and it’s a battle that determines eternity.

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