How will I do this? by Paula Rose Michelson

I believe that each of us has had experiences where we had to overcome insurmountable odds to achieve a goal we had not set for ourselves. Solving problems and overcoming obstacles is part of the human condition. In retrospect many have admitted that though the challenge was one they would not chose they learned a great deal about themselves as they dealt with the situation.

As you read the text ask yourself:

What would I do?

Why would I do it?

What would I do next?

The Text

                “Sí, sí … yes, but how will I do all this?”
                “We will call for assistance from my friend Myra. She will send a girl to you who you will train to take care of me. There is too much for you to do all by yourself. At night, you can take care of me. During the day you will serve me best outside the casa by taking caring of what is ours.” Naomi’s eyes widened as Madre Vida spoke about her new responsibilities. With each utterance, she became more overwhelmed. Her fear was evident to the old woman, who pointed an arthritic finger at her and insisted, “You can do this! I have chosen you because I know you will succeed! Do you believe me?”
                Naomi nodded, surprised that she truly did believe the old woman.
                “Yes, Madre Vida, I do.”
                “That is good.” She pulled the edge of her sheet over the blanket so the soft fabric was against her tender skin. “I am hungry and thirsty. Please bring me something to eat before I fall asleep again.”
                Naomi ran to the kitchen, put together a simple meal, and it brought to her. She set the tray on her bed and turned to leave. “But, child, where is your meal?” Dashing to the kitchen, Naomi fixed another tray as she pondered the strange turn of events.
                When she entered the suite, the old woman smiled. “I am glad you have chosen to stay.” So much freedom … so much responsibility, Naomi thought. How can I handle everything and discover who I am? The old woman looked up from her cold beet soup, sweetened with a slight zing from mild chilies, and studied her daughter’s face. “What is troubling you, Naomi?”
                “Forgive me, but I am concerned. I do not know how to do any of the things you want me to do.”
                The old woman chuckled. “You will learn.” She mopped up her bowl with some bread and added, “Just as I did.”
                “Just as you did?”
                “Yes, exactly as I did.” Madre Vida shared how her own adopted madre, Esperanza, had taught her the very things she would teach Naomi. When Naomi realized that Vida had felt as ill prepared as she felt now and made it through, she relaxed. “Listen, why do you think I never brought another niña here after you? Why do you think it was only the two of us? I know you were aware, since some of my grown niñas stopped by to visit, that many girls were here before but none since you came. Even in town, they would ask about you, but I kept you sheltered with me always. Never did I farm you out. Did you never wonder why? Did it never seem odd to you that I never treated you as I treated them?”
                “Well … yes, I did wonder about that. But I have always been treated differently no matter where I went, so it did not seem so unusual.”
                “Then you know that you are one who was set apart. I do not know why, but my good fortune is that I found you and was able to get you for myself. I have watched you. I know you. You can do all I ask of you. You will bring blessing upon my name long after I am gone. And the people here will come to know how much you care for them as you do what I tell you to do. Now I am tired. You must let me rest.”
                Pondering this strange turn of events, Naomi took Madre Vida’s tray from her feeble hands. The old woman smiled up at her. “I was one such as you. Tía Esperanza gave me this work in trust. I learned to do it and you will as well. Now leave me, for I must sleep.”

                Naomi walked into the kitchen, set their trays on the counter, and hurried to Madre Vida’s office. She entered, looked around, and realized it was now hers, as was the success for the work Vida trusted her to continue. She walked to the massive oak desk and sat down in the chair the old woman had sat in a few days before. Knowing her madre as she knew herself, Naomi reasoned that the top drawer held information she needed. She opened it and took the items out one at a time. There were timecards for the employees at the market, files for expenses and vendors, and legal agreements for those who rented space there. She found a file titled Immigration, opened it, and saw the papers Mr. Martinez had drawn up for Madre Vida. She set them aside. Under those, she found a file with her name on it.
                She took it to the kitchen and brewed a cup of tea. As the sun began to set, she flipped on the outside lights, stepped onto the patio, lit the torches, sat down, and opened the file. When she scanned its contents, she saw a diagram that would lead her to a book, which Madre Vida mentioned as important. She hurried to the office and found a unique book bound in red where the diagram showed it would be. Eager to look through the file, she returned to the patio, sat down, and placed the book on the table, intending to look at it later.
                When she flipped the page and read, “Detener … stop. Go no further until you read The Book of the Tías,” whatever illusion of independence she had vanished almost as fast as it had come. She picked up the book and leafed through its pages. “It seems I received my freedom so I could do what these women require of me,” she mumbled. Yet as she read, she found the entries fascinating. Esperanza, who had begun the work, wrote the first entries. Those that followed were from Madre Vida. As Naomi read her adoptive madre’s entries, she saw the date when Vida first mentioned that Naomi would be her successor and realized that it had been written it shortly after she arrived at the casa. Madre Vida’s last entry to her was a paraphrasing of the last words Esperanza had written to Vida, the girl who would continue her work. Aware that they applied to her as well, Naomi spoke them aloud. “Be fearless. Those who have come here need your assistance.” Though she spoke the words firmly, she was not firm in her resolve and stayed up all night trying to figure out how she could realize her plans and continue the work she had benefited from.
                As the shops prepared to open for business, Naomi yawned, and stretched in an effort to clear her mind. She could not stop herself from thinking, My letter seems different, as if Madre Vida chose me not because I was convenient but because of some inner quality she knew I possessed. She hinted at this when she wrote, I searched for you until I found you. I sheltered you and kept you safe. You have received more than anyone else has. I expect you to do what those who are behind you ask you to do and what those who are coming need you to do. I have equipped you to do all I have given you to do.
               Moved by the letter, which had been written years before she heard the words spoken by the woman herself, Naomi wondered, What did she see in me all those years ago—a frightened, scrawny, wide-eyed girl with nothing to offer? What made her choose me? She assumed she would never know. Yet she held The Book of the Tías in her hand, bowed her head, and accepted the commission. Her fate sealed, she admitted, I will never find you, mi tío, because I will never look for you. My heart is committed to meeting the needs of those, like me, who face deportation. She knew that the letter she had tucked into her skirt pocket so long ago would go unanswered. Here is a mission God equipped me for. I will not walk away from it … not for mi tío, not even for my family!
                Her future sealed, Naomi remembered fleeing Spain because she had feared others would discover her to be a Jew in a country that allowed only one faith, that of the Catholic Church. She remembered Madre Vida hiding her in the casa and feeling safe. As she thought about her journey, her old worries found voice, and though she would never tell a soul, she remembered that the last name she had given to Mr. Sosa, Victor at immigration, and the one Madre Vida had given the attorney which would appear on her adoption papers was not hers. Aware that she must return to immigration bearing that false name, she found herself more fearful of deportation than before. Realizing there was no one she could take her troubles to, she got on her knees and prayed, “Oh, God, help me to help others as my tía helped me. Allow me to know you and guide me always in the way I should go.” She felt a heavy weight lift from her. Infused with the joy, which comes when one casts their burdens upon God, she felt the strain she had been living under vanish. By agreeing to take the role of Tía and praying to God for his wisdom, I have again become as I was before the ruinous poison of the Jewish curse caused me to flee seeking a safe haven, she thought. If only—the memory of her childhood wish, quiet for all these years, stirred, if only it had happened sooner! At that moment, she felt as if she could again hear herself, as a child, praying to God. She had wanted others to think of her as a true daughter of Spain rather than a Jew. She had asked God for that blessing. However, her request had gone unanswered, and the children had continued to call her names, chasing her home as they yelled at her that she had killed their Christ.
                Naomi cried out, “Oh God of my fathers, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, help me do as I am asked! Keep me safely hidden in you and I will serve you all the days of my life.” She sobbed, aware that by accepting the role of Tía, she had become visible and all the terrible things that happened to her before could happen again. For one such as she, who had mastered the art of being invisible, putting herself in a situation where many would scrutinize her was unsettling. Yet she was committed to assist those fleeing situations too painful to describe.
                Emboldened by a renewed faith in the Lord and her position in the community, she asked, “What can they do to me now? As Tía’s chosen one, I have wealth and a good reputation with Madre Vida. No one would dare question me about my ability or my heritage. They will know Madre Vida choose and trained me and that will be enough for them.” She realized the protection wealth would afford her and smiled as she stood, blew out the candles, and went to bed.

Until we meet again, may you be emboldened to move from what is to what is yet to be.

Visit to buy Casa de Naomi: The House of Blessing Book 1 and pre-purchase a prerelease copy of book two 

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