It’s easy to complain and grumble and think we’ve got it rough. And then we meet someone who stops us short in our griping. I met one of these someones this past week for coffee, and I now I keep asking myself, “Who am I to complain?”

Who Are We to Complain?I met Hawa briefly about a year and half ago at a client’s office. She told me at the time that she escaped the 90s civil war in Liberia. Hawa wrote her name and phone number on a yellow stickie. Two weeks ago I called and we’ve met twice for coffee.

Barely Surviving

When the killing started around Monrovia in 1990, Hawa holed up with three dozen extended family members in one house. Nightly bombings. Running for cover . . . again and again. Surviving almost a year on sporadic meals of only buckwheat and sips of weak Lipton tea. Cholera ravaged Hawa and most of her family with relentless diarrhea, vomiting, dizziness and grossly swollen stomachs and feet. Eventually, the American military and humanitarian groups helped Hawa and thousands of her countrymen with survival basics and a fresh start.Hawa Cell

Hawa was granted asylum to America in 1997 and has lived here ever since. Hawa explains how she escaped one war in her homeland to enter another war when her military husband’s PTSD and mental health problems escalated into abuse. She’s now a single mother of three children, recovering steadily from her abusive marriage. She adores her kids and works in special education in an elementary school. Hawa is more than a survivor. She’s a thriver.

What Kept You Going?

“What kept you going all those years in Liberia?” I asked Hawa yesterday.

“It was our hope and trusting God. My grandfather read from his book of prayers, and we had family devotions every day and invited other refugee families to join us,” Hawa shared. “A lot of people died and it was terrifying to think that any day could be it, but there is something that happens when you put your hope in God.”

And what about Hawa’s takeaway message to the rest of us?

“You can’t give up on God. You have to believe His words and believe that there is a purpose to your life. I think many Americans are not grateful and they complain about a lot of things,” Hawa reflects. “There are some people who just want to have food to eat and live. I am grateful when I see the sun in the morning and I’m grateful for peace.

“Somebody has to the tell the story. Someone has to say, I’ve been through this, you can do it. I know what it is to be hungry and so I take nothing for granted. In your pain you have to realize there is some purpose that will come out of it if you don’t give up.”

Well said, Hawa. Well said. Thank you for reminding us all to curb our complaints and step up with our gratitude. And thank you for your inspiring resolve to never give up.