By Tony Glaros
Debnam, of Laurel, runs her own business, "Purpose in Living," which helps those on the road to rejuicing their careers and honing their vision. She provides a litany of services, including coaching, job search strategies and organizational development. In a few days, she notes, she's booked to conduct a resume-writing workshop at the Jewish Council for Aging. She's also written a curriculum for Prince George's County designed for inmates with 90 days left on their sentences.
For six years, the Brooklyn, N.Y., native handled a contract for Verizon that helped boost workers up the ladder of success.
"I'm a minority-owned, one-woman show," she says with a smile. Her vocabulary is as vivid as her personality is vivacious. I compliment her for being such good medicine at this early hour of the morning. Then, just so I'm correct, I ask her if her small business is franchised. I pressed her simply because the printed material she shares has that professional, knock-your-socks-off gleam to it. I even note that it carries a trademark symbol, which adds to my confusion. When she visited the government agency that awards trademarks and patents, she recalls, "they told me I was going to need an attorney to figure it out. But I'm good with figuring things out. That's my gift. I may take small steps, but I get there." The confidence she oozes is contagious.
Something that is also contagious: Brent, her 20-year-old son. Brent was my student when I taught special education at Parkdale High in Riverdale Park. When they stuck me in a chemistry class, I tried putting on a happy face, but, well, I thought the periodic table was something you ate off of occasionally. I wish I had known Brent's mom then, because my career path had turned into more of a train wreck. On the first day of school, Brent, who has cerebral palsy, looked up from his electric-powered wheelchair and asked, "Hey, Mr. Tony, you really don't want to be here, do you?" What a perceptive kid. Oh, did I tell you that he was the only one in the class who bothered to do his homework? Instant love! We still hang out. He's like my second son.
When he was born three months premature, his mom tells me, the doctors said he would "probably be like a vegetable. And I lost it." Since she was someone so naturally adept at fixing things for others, this thrust her personal life into uncharted waters. It was Brent's father who set her straight, advising her to take her spirituality and surrender it to God and to use all the information she had to ease into this life-changing scenario. And that's exactly what she did.
"I worked Brent like a case," she recalls. "I would take him everywhere with me." Their journeys included the park, where she introduced him to nature at an early age. "I would take his hand. 'This is a tree,' I'd say. 'This is water. This is life.' " She also took him where other parents in her situation may not have the courage to go: on a cross-country trip. Just mother and son. Via Amtrak and rental cars. Twenty-five states in three weeks.
Taking a sip of tea, Debnam leaves some parting wisdom, fragrant and reassuring. "It's all right to be afraid," she declares. "You feel the fear, you move through it. Don't let it immobilize you. I tell my clients you have to take small action steps. Tiny steps will get you to your goal."
Tony Glaros is a former Laurel Leader staffwriter.