Last year:

Callum and I are having some mother-son time at our local café. As we sip coffee I ask about his work and he tells me he isn’t feeling very confident. I am surprised. Callum is a very outgoing young man. He always looks like he has everything under control.

“I worry about doing something wrong and upsetting my boss. And now we’ve been told we have to check customers’ bags as they come through the check-out. What if they don’t like it? What if they get upset with me too? If I don’t do it, I’ll get into trouble.”

What can I say? Should I give Callum some of my motherly advice? I decide to share a story:

“I never had much confidence when I started working,” I admit. Callum’s ears prick up. I don’t often talk about my working days. Does he even remember I used to work in the veterinary physiology department of a university?

“Professor G was the head of our department. He was a tall forbidding-looking man with absolutely no people skills. He related much better to all the animals he dealt with than to human beings. We were all rather terrified of Prof especially us younger people.

“Every now and then Prof would come into our room and announce that he’d be performing surgery the next day. ‘I need someone to set up for surgery and assist me.’ All the junior employees, including me, would look anywhere but at Prof. We all wanted the floor to swallow us up, but as that didn’t happen, we tried to look as inconspicuous as possible. Who would be chosen? Who would be the unlucky person who’d have to set up everything perfectly to Prof’s high standards? Who would have to obey his constant barking orders the next day, without making a single mistake?

“I lived in fear I would be chosen as Prof’s assistant. It was a terrible feeling. Then one day I decided I hated being frightened. I could no longer live like that and I was going to do something about it. I was going to learn how to set up surgery and assist so well that if I were chosen, I would do such a good job, there would be no need for me to quiver and shake and worry I’d make a mistake.

“I also decided that, despite his fierce appearance, Prof was just another person like me. I had no reason to be scared of him.

“I started asking questions about things I wasn’t sure about instead of pretending I knew what I was doing. I listened carefully and soon I was so good at setting up for surgery I could have done it with my eyes closed. I still needed to keep my eyes open when I was assisting though! It wasn’t long before surgery became fascinating rather than scary. I asked intelligent questions while we worked because I was interested, and Prof started chatting to me instead of barking at me. And I grew in confidence.

“Soon I noticed Prof stopped choosing a random victim to help him. He’d come into our room and say, ‘Sue, can you set up for surgery and assist me tomorrow?’ I’d got so good at doing this job, Prof always wanted my help instead of anyone else’s. I am sure my fellow colleagues were rather relieved. Me? I felt pleased. I’d learnt a new skill, conquered a fear and my work was appreciated.”

Callum is listening carefully. I can tell he is thinking about my story. “Thanks, Mum!”

We finish our coffee. Callum heads off to work and I return home.


“Callum, do you remember that conversation we had in the café last year… the one where I told you how I used to set up for surgery... the one about my confidence problem? …  Did you solve your own problem?”

Callum smiles in his charming and confident way. “I decided to talk to my boss about all the things I wasn’t sure about. He was willing to help me when he realised I was having trouble. I listened and learnt.”

“What about the bags and the customers?”

“I thought I would chat with everyone as they came through the check-out… be friendly and interested in them. When it came time to ask them if I could look in their bags, no one minded because they liked me. I just became good at customer relations!”

So Callum is now a confident employee who is good at his job. He has become so good he has been offered a job as store manager.

Sometimes a mother has a story to tell. And sometimes a son will listen.

I think about what my friend Beate said in a comment a few days ago. We were talking about all the different things we experienced before we found the job God intended for us. Beate remarked that all these experiences are good: nothing is ever wasted.

Working in the veterinary physiology department was definitely not my vocation. But I did learn things I have carried forward with me. Gaining those surgery skills taught me not to be afraid to ask questions and to listen carefully and learn. They gave me the confidence to tackle anything.

Operate on a sheep? Would you have guessed I have such skills? They're not very useful skills for a mother to have, I admit. But they provided me with a great story to share. 

And Callum now realises if his mother can learn how to operate on a sheep then he can do anything.

"Callum, can I write a post about that conversation we had in the cafe last year, the one where I told you about my surgery skills?"

"Of course. I don't mind"
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  1. Now, I know for sure that you've always been wise! I'd have been hiding under the table, at age 20:)

    Such a great story - can I use it?

    1. Vicky,

      Hadn't you heard that story before? How did I keep it to myself for so many years? Actually I was a bit older than 20, maybe 23. Whatever age, I felt so young and inexperienced!

      You can use my story if you like. Who are you going to tell it to?

  2. Wonderful!!! Callum, you have such a lovely mum. Thank you for sharing this story. :)

    1. Susan,

      Thank you for reading!

      I was thinking the other day how we all have such interesting lives. So many things we have experienced make great blog stories or can be shared with our children. That's one of the reasons I love reading your blog. You too share some very interesting things!!

  3. This is a brilliant post.

    Often young people feel overwhelmed and lack confidence in an adult work environment and it's important that "grown-ups" realise this and are aware that new young employees need support and encouragement.

    I've known a case where a young employee in a legal firm was severely told off by the head lawyer within three days of starting voluntary unpaid job experience. He had made a silly mistake whilst photocopying and collating documents. It would have been easier for all concerned to photocopy the documents again "the way we do things around here". But the head lawyer, who was feared by all, was just showing everyone concerned who's boss. He had forgotten that voluntary unpaid job experience meant he had to teach and support the youngster rather than shout at him.

    I suppose he taught him how not to be a bad boss!

    God bless.

    1. Victor,

      I think you have picked up on a very common problem of our young people.

      I guess everyone goes through a not-very-confident stage when they first enter the workforce. Some people remember how awful it was and decide to help younger employees avoid similar distress. And then there are those who decide that now they've reached the boss stage, they will inflict the same treatment they received on others. Yes, they are the bad bosses!

      Victor, I appreciate your comment when you have more important things to think about. Thank you for your email. God bless and many prayers.

  4. Perfect Sue! What a great way to share with Callum and help him resolve his own issue. Too many times I've jumped into the problem solving mode, instead of just carefully listening and then praying before responding. Thanks for the example :-) Idk, I think the surgery must have helped you not to bat an eye at the various injuries your dc have had ;-) Sabine and I held down a struggling, screaming toddler to wash and pry apart a cut on his foot before taping it back together just a couple of weeks ago ;-)

    1. Beate,

      I have to admit I'm not always good at handling big children problems. I know all about jumping in with both feet without thinking! This must be one of my rare success stories.

      I'm sorry to hear about your injured toddler. I hope his foot is healing. Unfortunately I hate dealing with my children's injuries. A sheep is only a sheep. My children are different. I hate seeing them in pain and sometimes I'm almost afraid to look to see what they've done to themselves. If there is no one else available I pull myself together and I do whatever is necessary. But I have 5 children who are or have been involved with St John Ambulance. They are very proficient and usually they are eager for a chance to deal with some horrific injury! All I have to do is call and someone comes running!

  5. Wow! Who knew! You are a woman of so many talents! (I was so intrigued by the title for this one!) (I think I just left you a comment!!!So I'm trying again. All seems to be working well! Yipee!)

    1. Dana,

      It is so good to see you back on my blog! I'm glad your comments posted after all the trouble you were having. I worked out my own comments problem on your blog so all is OK!

      Do you sometimes have trouble adding a title to a post? Occasionally the title is much harder to decide upon than writing the story! But this time, the title came instantly.

      I am sure we all have unusual or amazing talents no one knows about. I'd love to read a post about yours. Thinking about this further, I already can see you have lots of talents!!


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