Quote of the day/week/however long

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."
~William James

Monday, April 27, 2015

Your Bible Verse For The Day

Esther 4:14 -  When Esther hesitated to risk her life to save her people, Mordecai, her foster father said, "Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

"Daddy, do I have to?"

The entire story is riveting, but Mordecai's question can also stand alone. And it can be taken personally by anyone who is looking for their purpose in life - or at work.

Why and when and how might a humble consular officer relate to such a grand statement of finality and fate?

Every FSO was hired for a reason. Much of that reason is that the hirers decided that the hirees' judgement could be trusted. And much of the way that a person acquires judgement that can be trusted is through having complex experiences and learning the right lessons from them.

No consular officer stands at the window with an empty mind and blank character. Often it is previous life events that give conoffs the edge to make decisions not just by the book (or the FAM) but also by common sense, a clear heart, and courage.

An officer of Madam's acquaintance often tells the story of what most would consider a simple, easy visa refusal: in a European post many years ago, a young man from Eastern Europe applied for an NIV. The young man had no passport, only a refugee travel document from the country that had taken him in. He was not working. He wanted to visit his Amcit girlfriend in the US. Who wouldn't refuse such a case?

Madam's friend refused him, with apologies. The young man said, "That's all right. I thought you'd probably say no. It's just that this is the best time for a visit, since my work here starts in three weeks and then I won't be able to go for a long time."

They parted pleasantly. And that night Madam's friend couldn't sleep. In the morning, he dug out the young man's OF-156, called him, asked him to come back, requested a waiver for the travel document, and issued the visa. A month later, the young man came to the consular section to introduce the girlfriend - who had come with him back to Europe - and to reassure the officer that he had returned.

What's the lesson? Compared to possible genocide, a single visa decision might seem trivial. Compared to Amcits in real trouble, compared to rising unrest that might break out in bloody violence, compared to hurricanes, floods and earthquakes, maybe it is trivial. But even if the issue is not life-threatening, trust the judgement you were hired for, and trust yourself to do the right thing. Madam's friend issued the visa because, through years of raising teenagers, among other challenging experiences, he knew the applicant was telling the truth, and he was right.

Did that one NIV matter in the course of a consular career? Like the little child who tosses the starfishes back into the sea, the officer knew that it mattered to the young man he issued it to. And it mattered to the officer, too; he had done the right thing even though it was harder to do than to just invoke 214(b) and get on with his life. Perhaps most of all, it allowed him to exercise the judgement he had been hired for, and we all know that to keep any muscle (or thinking process) ready for action, it must be exercised regularly, not just wait for the big genocide-threatening life event that, unlike Esther's, might never arise.

Like Esther, the officer made the harder decision, which was the right one, not the easy one. And he didn't even need a peevish Jewish foster father to tell him so.

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