I was joking with a friend that I’ve never been in one place as long as I’ve been in DC, yet even more remarkable to me was when i realized that I had never worked in one place for longer than the 28 months I spent at HOPE. Sound like someone you know, huh? lol. Typical Gen X/Y’ers.
Anywho, so now I look back and despite the difficulties, challenges, and accomplishments I see at work a bigger plan that could only have been orchestrated by providence. This is how it all began:
In late 2007, I was working for the Institute a phenomenal non-profit right on the border of Georgetown focused on inspiring and developing Black male leaders from college for lives of public service. It was the most fulfilling time of my career. Unfortunately, funding issues arose, and I was let go in September. I was crushed. My faith was bruised and so was my confidence.
After 4 months back home in Delaware, it was my brother who challenged me and said you don’t belong here in Delaware there’s a bigger dream for you beyond this place. (It was as if to him i just looked out of place amongst the familiar and mundane backdrop of our adolescent home). It was then I knew I had to be back in DC. So on Christmas of 2007 I said a prayer and committed to moving back to DC. The last paycheck I received I gave away to a friend in need, in testing belief that ultimately, God as provider, would meet my needs. But I was now literally penniless. Well, in wisdom, I began acting out on this goal by sending and posting resumes and cover letters like crazy. I even sent out the following email to friends clearly describing the kind of job I was believing for:
or metro accessible
Type of Organization
is a socially conscious organization or department.
has a priority to assist, educate, or empower people
Type of work
environment where I am working on or learning about international economics/affairs related issues
working or advising with college aged people
promoting or programming for international education opportunities
South Africa related
Type of Boss
thanks for keeping an eye out. let me know if you come across anything
Nothing happened though. Then I was challenged to humble myself in whatever form I needed in order to be in the place the Spirit had lead me to be.
So on MLK, Jr weekend in 2008, I packed my bags and headed down to DC to volunteer for a conference. After the conference, I would stay at my cousin’s house looking for jobs. After two days at my cousin’s place ( the consummate bachelor) — no food on the stove or in the fridge, lol — I quickly picked up the Post Express and began searching through the classifieds. I found a job expo at a hotel, but they never called back. Finally, I told myself to just find a job at a restaurant. The next day I went down to Gallery Place/Chinatown to turn in an application at Clyde’s and Ruby Tuesday, but neither was ready to hire. As I was about to get back on the metro defeated, someone thrust a flyer into my hand: Potbelly’s was having a job fair.
I walked in had two interviews in rapid succession and was hired about an hour later. There were three stores looking for openings, but one in particular was right next door to the bank where I used to work as an officer. In my head, I remember praying Lord any store but that one; not the one on 19th. But of course, of the three store managers, the one that wanted me the most was from that dreaded store. I was tempted to refuse the offer and ask for another store, but my soul was humbled with gratitude and I accepted gleefully.
Yet, I still had this simmering anxiety about the possibility of seeing one of my former co-workers at the store. Quickly, I had to move past that because I had no money and they were paying me, I had no food and they fed me every time I worked (the provision of my Lord is thorough).
Eventually, I started working during the heavy lunch shift and a few of my former co-workers did come in. They were older more mature folks, and didn’t react at all in the sort of shock or disdain that I had been fearing. So I remember praying, Lord I can handle anyone … but him, not Bee. Bee was the guy who wanted to know and seemed to know what everyone else in the office was doing, and if he wasn’t your friend you probably wouldn’t tell him too much. He always had the scoop about something or someone. Yet sure enough ’bout 3 weeks into my ‘career’ at Potbelly’s in walks Bee. Oh, and I could see him right as he entered, too. Boy, I wanted to pull my hat down over my face and bolt right into the back. But I knew if I abandoned my post, at then the busiest time of day, I would surely get fired. So I prayed; Lord give me the strength. He got to the front of the line I greeted him and we chatted for a bit. I served him and thanked him for his business, and we promised to get together again sometime soon. In the end, it was much easier than I had so apprehensively anticipated.
Three days later, I had been fortunate to score some extra hours with a morning shift, and it was then that a phone call came in to the store. The manager said it was for me. I refused said that’s impossible.
In my head I’m thinking, I haven’t told a soul that I work at Potbelly’s.
But the manager insists the person is asking for me. Well, I pick up the phone and it’s my old friend Sye. She was one of the executive assistants back when I was still at the Bank. She had heard, from who else, Brian of course, that I was working at Potbellys. She then went on to say that she had just gotten an email (that morning!) from Jackie making a last ditch effort to locate me for some job. So Sye says ‘I called her and I want to put her thru on three-way’. Huh!
My former colleague Jackie gets on the phone, and says something that blows my mind still to this day ‘Segun where have you been? I’ve been trying to find you for the last two months to recommend you for working for me. I think you are perfect for it’. My mouth must have dropped open, yet the thing that struck me was that while I was still wrestling through the process of humility in the search for a job, providence had already ordained it that someone was looking trying to give me a job. This was now late February, so that meant that in late December God had already been working this out for my good. Coincidence maybe, but I prefer to call it providence!!
Well, I can tell you now that everyone of the desires on the list above I experienced during my time at HOPE. I directed a program focused on economic empowerment through financial literacy and personal dignity for youth ages 9-22. My boss Ms. Jackie is more than a mentor to me she is like family now, my surrogate older sister (love you J Starrrr). She has fasted with me, chastised me, exhorted me, and even before I started she helped me buy and wrap Valentine’s day gifts for my girlfriend at the time. She advocates for me in my personal and professional growth. Through this I see how faithful the Lord has been to me, even down to the intimate details!
Even while I am faithless He is so abundantly faithful. Soli deo gloria.