Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Sunday Business - GINA LON­DON

Why be­ing grate­ful helps you to make the most of what you al­ready have,

I’D LIKE to in­tro­duce you to Mercy*. I met her re­cently at a party. Smil­ing and chatty, her bright per­son­al­ity didn’t in­di­cate the many hard­ships which prompted her to live here. The party’s host ex­plained a bit to me, and I had to know more. Mercy was gra­cious to an­swer my ques­tions and share her story. Through it, I know we’ll all find more ways to com­mu­ni­cate grat­i­tude to our­selves and — even more im­por­tantly — to oth­ers around us.

Mercy was born in Abu Dhabi to So­ma­lian par­ents who had been liv­ing and work­ing there for many years be­fore she was born.

She de­scribed fond fam­ily mem­o­ries of their time to­gether.

How­ever, when Mercy was 21, her fa­ther lost his job and with it the op­por­tu­nity to con­tinue liv­ing in the UAE. She and her en­tire fam­ily were or­dered back to So­ma­lia.

“I had never stepped foot in So­ma­lia be­fore be­ing de­ported. I knew noth­ing about it,” she re­called. “Im­me­di­ately there were prob­lems.”

The first was the fact that her dad de­serted the fam­ily. “He just dis­ap­peared.” Then, in part be­cause Mercy was flu­ent in Ara­bic, she was forcibly re­cruited by a Is­lamic mil­i­tant group, Al-Shabaab, to teach their rad­i­cal re­li­gious be­liefs to chil­dren.

She told me her safety was con­stantly at risk if she dis­obeyed the gang’s lead­ers, and tears filled her eyes as she re­mem­bered this har­row­ing time. “I was tar­geted be­cause I was a young woman with no hus­band.”

Af­ter a few months of this, Mercy’s mother, des­per­ate to find a means of es­cape for her daugh­ter, en­listed the help of an “agent”.

Mercy told me that at the time she had no un­der­stand­ing that the man was es­sen­tially a hu­man smug­gler — paid to move her il­le­gally across bor­ders.

“Never in my wildest dreams, did I think I would come this far. I re­mem­ber clearly that I was left at Dublin Air­port with a Euro­pean pass­port that wasn’t mine and I didn’t even know how to say, ‘I came to seek asy­lum’ or even what be­ing a refugee meant.”

Mercy said, for­tu­nately, the im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials were help­ful. “They helped me un­der­stand the process.”

Now, sev­eral years af­ter her ar­rival, Mercy has of­fi­cial le­gal sta­tus as a refugee and is liv­ing in di­rect pro­vi­sion. Mercy is grate­ful for sanc­tu­ary and a chance to make a new life for her­self. She counts her mother as a hero. Here are some foun­da­tional build­ing blocks to help you re­mem­ber to com­mu­ni­cate this bet­ter to your­self — and oth­ers. We can all res­tart our grat­i­tude barom­e­ters at this one. If you’re alive, then a ca­reer, re­la­tion­ship, or some other op­por­tu­nity still po­ten­tially awaits. Don’t give up. While your busi­ness or pro­fes­sional sit­u­a­tion may have taken a dip in the past quar­ter, just con­sider Mercy. Her sit­u­a­tion took an un­ex­pected and dra­matic turn just four short years ago. And yet, here she is. Sur­viv­ing.

As long as you re­main on this planet, there’s still hope.


Who has your back? Is it a col­league, a rel­a­tive, a su­per­vi­sor? As of­ten as ap­pro­pri­ate, it is crit­i­cal to not only be grate­ful for them, but to tell them so. Re­mind them of the dif­fer­ence they have made for you.

Don’t think that be­ing pro­fes­sional means you’re not al­lowed to be emo­tional. Since ar­riv­ing in Ire­land, Mercy says, “To my sur­prise, I have only met good peo­ple to date and my life has changed as a whole.”

Take some time and com­pose a mes­sage that de­tails specif­i­cally how that per­son or group of peo­ple helped you. Strive to be mean­ing­ful with your words.


A quote of­ten re­peated is, “Ev­ery­thing hap­pens for a rea­son.” I have never bought into that. I think a lot of things just hap­pen. It’s how you re­spond to them that gives them rea­son. I can’t imag­ine urg­ing Mercy to be thank­ful for be­ing shipped back to So­ma­lia or for be­ing co­erced by Al-Shabaab.

But when we man­age to come through to the other side, many of us can at least ap­pre­ci­ate hav­ing learned some­thing. What cri­sis has hit you? Did you be­come more re­silient, or gain em­pa­thy for oth­ers? For that, you may be thank­ful.


Mercy is tire­less and de­ter­mined. Her day starts at 5am to catch the first of two buses that trans­port her from her ac­com­mo­da­tion to her col­lege classes. The jour­ney takes two hours. Each way.

What is it that keeps her go­ing? “I want to find my­self. To learn what makes me unique from oth­ers,” Mercy says. “I’m re­ally in a very early stage of find­ing out what I truly want to do and what I can be­come.”

Michelle Obama’s book, which I read over the Christ­mas hol­i­day, is ti­tled Be­com­ing. You have de­vel­oped strengths, too. I’m bet­ting you can de­velop even more as you dis­cover what more you can be­come. Es­pe­cially if you wrap your per­sonal and pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment with a spirit of grat­i­tude.

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