Illiterate. Uneducated. A nobody. “Survive” is his whole to-do-list. “Career”, “Bright Future”, “Great Potential” – words that have no meaning. Only exist in his wildest dreams – if at all. And probably meant to stay there.
He is 23 years old, husband, father of a baby boy. Smokes 2 packages a day. Construction worker since 10 years. An anniversary no-one celebrates. No-one notices.
He is poor. But he is not empty-handed.
In our construction season 2017 he was one of 50 seasonal workers. I only knew the outstandingly good and bad ones. He belonged to the first group. Weeks in, he surprised me more and more with his commitment. He was always giving a hand, volunteering for the difficult tasks and most importantly had a smile that rarely disappeared. No matter the heat. No matter the sweat. No matter the hard work.
It captured me.
At the end of the season, I was allowed to employ two workers. To my joy, he agreed to the job offer. His life would change radically now. From a restless “always-on-the-move” to fixed working times and days, structure, rules, submission to an organization. Tempting and the dream for some. Challenging for a free spirit like him who never had to follow many rules but could quit and go to another construction side whenever something didn’t please him.
And so he did. After six days he disappeared. I called him to a debriefing and to pay his deserved salary. I explained how this was completely against my will but I knew I had to let him go. I told him I saw huge potential in him, doing way bigger things than what he’s done so far, pursuing bigger dreams which seemed so impossible right now. Words he probably never heard before.
I dismissed him, promising to pray and to always keep a door open for his comeback.
Immediately, mixed feelings started to chase me. Was my view of him that wrong? I was sad and frustrated to have lost such promising team member with an attitude a leader could only dream of. I poured out my feelings and pleaded with God to lead him back.
Strange enough, after only a few hours and a handful of prayers, a certainty came up that he would return. I stopped praying and started trusting. Instead of employing another worker, I just waited.
One day, my friend told me that he found Mab on a construction side. I went to pay him a visit and asked him if he would like to come back. He was obviously honored but didn’t agree.
Guess what, a day or two later, he called me and told me the good news about his changed mind. In our first meeting he promised with a big smile: This time, I stay for long. I believed him without a single doubt in mind.
Within the first few 1 to 1 coachings, I addressed his cigarette consumption. Mab explained his struggle to get rid of it. We prayed. God moved. A miracle happened and he quit smoking without problems. Soon after he decided to give his life to God and got baptized.
Two years later, I still love Mab’s genuine smile. His attitude is incredibly mind-blowing. Mab tackles obstacles with his own creativity. Despite his inability to read/write, he recently led 45 seasonal workers for a big project. He takes over a big junk of my responsibility, stays teachable and humble at the same time. He makes mistakes and takes them as growth pusher. Even when I have constructive feedback he stays positive and would come up with a joke within seconds.
Mab might be illiterate. He might be uneducated. But his character is priceless, his heart is good, his commitment not failing. Mab does not give up anymore. He goes all in and reaches places far beyond his keenest dreams. He was not empty-handed. He had not much more than skills. And those he invested. All in. Giving his best even when – for 10 years – nobody saw him. But God did.
Mab inspires me immensely – on a daily basis.
Your circumstances might not be promising. But you are not empty-handed!