Take a deep breath

Yesterday I met a young man who needed some help on his Master’s thesis.  He’s studying minute differences in language structure between the group of languages that English falls into and the group of languages that Arabic and its various dialects fall into.  Before I could help him, he had to give me a tutorial on the linguistic principles that he has been studying. I will claim basic understanding — that is all.

We met at a Dunkin’ Donuts and sat side by side on stools with our laptops open discussing complementizers, noun phrases, and the grammaticality of each sentence.

We drew a couple of glances from other customers.  A middle aged white woman leaning in to look at the laptop of a young Saudi Arabian man, squinting and thinking, then typing and laughing, might not be the normal clientele for a Dunkin’ Donuts on the south side of Ypsilanti.

We were united in purpose for two and a half hours.  His adviser had made suggestions on his latest draft and he had to submit his changes by the end of last night.  He had done his work.  For each of the professor’s suggestions, he had already drafted his solution, but he wanted to check with a native speaker of English to be sure that what he meant was clearly conveyed through what he wrote.

The kid is brilliant.  He is employed by the Saudi Arabian government who, he said, gave him two choices, 1) go to the United States and get your master’s degree in linguistics and we will foot the bill, or 2) no longer be employed by us.

His choice was not as simple as it might seem.  His mother has diabetes and he is her only child.  He has been separated from her for three years. Each night we stays awake until 4:00am so that he can Skype with her.  He said it was a condition of his coming here.  He smiles and doesn’t seem to mind; he clearly loves his mother.

If he can just finish this thesis, get an acceptable score on the GRE, and get accepted into an American PhD program, he can go home next month to visit his mother. Wow.  That’s a lot to do in your native country, in your native language, in your native culture.

The stress he is under was palpable.  Several times during those two and half hours I said, “We’re fine, we’re fine.  We have plenty of time.  Take a deep breath.”  He follows directions well. We got through every last section, every last comment.  I left him at the Dunkin’ Donuts knowing that he would pour over that thesis from beginning to end for several more hours before he would be willing to submit it to his professor, before he would Skype with his mother and then take a much-needed rest.

He’ll rest for just a bit, though, because the GRE is on Thursday and he hasn’t really started to prepare.  And then there is the business of being accepted into a PhD program — no small task.

So much weight on him. So much weight on all of us — the graduate student, the young mother, the executive, the pastor, the teacher, the soldier. If we could just ___________________ then we would be able to ______________________.

“We’re fine, we’re fine.  We have plenty of time.  Take a deep breath.”  We’re not alone.  We have each other for encouragement, for coaching, for laughing.  And we are all sitting in the palm of His hand.

I Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you.