The day I received an anonymous note scrawled on a job advert was the day that was to change my life. I wasn’t actively looking for another job because I was gainfully employed at a community media project in Hammersmith working with young media wannabes. But there it was, scribbled on a Guardian job ad looking for an Oversea Programme Coordinator, “You once said this was your perfect job”. To this day I have no idea who the scribbler was.
Its was true I had always wanted to travel. I had even made a couple of short films in Jordan and Syria when I had visited family, but I knew zilch about overseas development work. But never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, and working on the theory that one should test every opportunity that comes your way as you never know from where it has come – a risky approach to life on any level – I decided to give it a whirl.
Undeterred by the not so encouraging noises from friends who gasped, “You’ve got no chance, you haven’t even been to Africa on holiday,” I submitted what amounted to a small book by way of an application. Long story short, I got the job. Quite how has always baffled me, but it changed the course of my life and opened up a world I had only glimpsed at but never had the courage to engage with.
I knew nothing about what it was like to be disabled in a country that struggled to find food for its people let alone provide access to the most basic form of healthcare and education. I had been brought up in leafy Oxfordshire, cocooned in the padded environment of the British social care system. Yet, in 1985 when I first stepped off the British Airways 747 that had taken me to Jordan and into what was – and to a large extent still is for disabled people – an under-developed country, I realised I was entering a world from which I had had a very lucky escape. Or was it luck?
The God I know doesn’t deal in luck, or happenstance or even coincidences. I believe he uses whatever – whoever – is available to ensure his plan for a particular person gets rolled out. It’s not an exact art, but life never is. Mostly we miss the nudges, prods, words of encouragement, or just plain slaps across the face and carry on regardless, never knowing what we have missed out on. Is that a bad thing? Surely, what we don’t know we don’t miss?
I tend to disagree. If I have learned anything in this life so far, it is take your chances when they are presented. God knows when they’ll come again.