Kowshara’s Letter

How I Got Here

My name is Kowshara Thomas. I am the new Executive Director at Joseph’s House. As I sit and write to you, I’ m reflecting on how I got here.

I grew up during times when everyone within a four-block radius was considered family. My grandmother Alma was the matriarch of our family and neighborhood. She was a very welcoming, warm-hearted Godly woman, and her smile would light up a room. Her doors were never locked and she always had a home-cooked meal ready. She had a lot of health issues but that never stopped her from caring about and supporting others. It was my grandmother who inspired me to become a nurse. I enjoyed caring for her and I looked forward to our long talks.

One day grandma called me and asked me to come and visit her. I told her I would come on Thursday. Late that same night I was awakened by a call from my father telling me that grandma had died. I couldn’t believe it! I felt empty and hopeless, guilty and overwhelmed. Feeling so deeply made me think a lot about how to find my own way, how to live with purpose and more than that, how to live every day with a sense of mission in my life. My grandmother’s death showed me how short life can be. I wanted to make my life count.

I would often come to Washington, DC to visit a childhood friend. Everyone here was so nice, career focused, and encouraging. I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be the woman my daughter could look up to. I decided to relocate from Syracuse, New York, with my five-year-old daughter, no job and no place to live. Everyone thought I was crazy. When I left home, my mother told me, “You will be back”.

All I had was my faith, determination, and a friend. I can remember driving all around the beltway – with no GPS – applying for jobs. Eventually, I got a job with hospice in their call center. I felt like a used car salesman! Yet every day when I talked to my father, he gave me encouraging words. “You’ll be fine”, he assured me, “remember that every time you put your mind to something, you accomplished it. But also remember, you can always come home.”

Each night, after putting my daughter to sleep, I would lie down talking to God as I cried myself to sleep. I missed my family, my support system. I felt alone. To be honest, I had lost my faith. One night my conversation with God was different.

Dear God, I said, thank you for being strong when I am weak. Letting go is hard for me because I want to hold on and be in control. I ask for your guidance, patience, and wisdom. I don’t know where this path will lead me but you know my heart. I will allow things to unfold in new ways. Amen.

I woke up in the morning with a purpose: I wanted to get out into the community to see exactly what it was that I was offering the families I spoke with on the phone. Boy did things change for me! Meeting people in person, I realized it was not what I was offering them, but what they were offering me. I fell in love with Joseph’s House the first time I was assigned a patient there, as a hospice nurse. Staff was so welcoming, patient, and attentive. Everything they did was from the heart. It showed in their smiles, in their touch, and in their willingness to go the extra mile. I loved the fact that Joseph’s House understood that every person had their own path. Joseph’s House is truly a place of acceptance, nurturing, compassion, and community. Years ago, I sometimes covered the weekend shift when a nurse was on vacation. A year ago I joined as a full-time nurse case manager. Today I am the Executive Director.

In this position, I’m grateful that I have inherited a team that can be honest about their experiences and feelings about our residents. And I’m grateful for my own life experiences which help me not judge residents and former residents or judge our staff who feel overwhelmed. I’m grateful to be part of a community of caregivers each of whom truly wants to grow and keep growing in compassion and courage, in honesty and humility.

With deep gratitude I ask you to please support me as I give everything I have to serving and leading this very special community. With all my heart, thank you.