Word Prompt: Empower | Story Prompt: from the book “What Strange Paradise” by Omar El Akkad

Write It Out: Instruction Video

“The housekeeper eyes both boy and girl, uncertain. In the way she looks at him, Amir senses that this woman is one of the people whose approval was of such importance to the men and women he traveled with on the Calypso. And on the tail of this thought comes another realization — that he is in possession of the pass phrase to be used in exactly such a situation. He takes a step toward the housekeeper and recites in broken English the words he’s memorized phonetically from days of repeated hearings.

“Hello,” he says. “I am pregnant. I will have baby on April twenty-eight. I need hospital and doctor to have safe baby. Please help.”

The woman looks at the boy. She says nothing.

Amir, unsure whether he’s mispronounced something, begins once more to recite the sounds he memorized. This time, Vanna puts her hand against his chest. She turns to the housekeeper.

“Please don’t tell,” she says.

A wave of recognition washes over the housekeeper’s face.

“From this morning?” she asks Vanna, but doesn’t wait for the girl to answer. Instead, she begins rummaging around her cart, then suddenly she stops.

“Don’t go anywhere,” she says.

Before Vanna can reply, the housekeeper opens the door to one of the ground-floor rooms and disappears inside. She emerges with a handful of minibar provision — cookies, chips, cashews, a bottle of water. She unfolds one of the pillowcases in her cart and begins stuffing it with these things and then others — small bottles of shampoo and conditioner, bars of soap, a towel, pillow mints.”


Sometimes, the most important thing that can be done for someone is nothing – at least, nothing significant. The right words at the right time, a look that says, you got this. People often don’t need to be “rescued”, they need to understand that they have strength within themselves to do the tough thing. To me, that is empowerment.

If I am having thoughts of doubt, often the strongest action for me is to remember that my brain is often wrong, that those thoughts of doubt are not truth. Other times, I tend to look to those around me for a signal that there is no question in their minds that I can do this. That also helps me to pack away my doubts, take a breath, and move forward. (This can often backfire.) Better yet, perhaps it is a hand that reaches out to pull me up, if I can only let go of what has my attention (the fear and unwillingness to let go and move forward) and reach up to take that hand.

I suppose the common thread in empowerment is that it must come from within, and involves a willingness to change. Thoughts? Feel free to share them here.

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