Christy paused, asking God for the grace to get through the meeting with the board of directors at work…”Please, God, don’t let me lose my temper, even if they say things I know aren’t true. Help me to be Christ to everyone there today.”
Christy had met very few people throughout her life that she couldn’t charm or eventually win over. Her work at a non-profit social outreach program had helped her overcome her shyness, and even be able to “work” a room, with her newly-discovered gift of public speaking. Everything was going so well until her boss, Mrs. Fist, hired a co-worker from her last office, “Nourish”, which was dedicated to helping poor families locate food banks from around the metropolitan area. Christy loved her work, since it was so rewarding. She enjoyed lots of friends there, too, and helped run the office. That is, until Mrs. Fist hired Wendy.
Wendy was hired on as a project manager in September. Everything went well with her at first, because Christy ignored the whispers about Wendy being barred from certain meetings for her strong opinions. What was the problem, anyway? Wendy was extremely knowledgeable, loyal to the nonprofit, and went above and beyond on any project to which she was assigned….Mrs. Fist really seems to rely on Wendy, so there doesn’t seem to be any reason to listen to those nasty rumors. She really seems to care about our clients, and…well, everyone deserves a fair shake, Christy thought. I feel so bad that she doesn’t seem to have many friends here, and why does everyone steer clear of her? It’s as though people are afraid of her, how weird. Wendy even took everyone’s picture today, and that shows how much she likes all of us.
While Wendy, a widow in her sixties did seem a bit opinionated, everything was business as usual, for a while. Sometimes she would seem so charming, but then the storm would blow in, gradually at first, with wind gusts that threatened to shake the building. Boy, Wendy sure gets mad sometimes, she thought. Oh, well, it’s good that she is around to help me. I’ll just ignore it if she loses it. Christy, at twenty-four, was reveling in her success and was increasingly asked to take the helm if Mrs. Fist was called away for meetings or afternoons. Wendy sometimes seemed to sense if Christy was feeling overwhelmed with work, and would volunteer to help. What a lifesaver she is, Christy would often think to herself. It’s a wonder she doesn’t have more people hanging around her. The only things is, Wendy sometimes seems, well, jealous,…but this Christy ignored as well. It wasn’t until Mrs. Fist asked Christy to a closed door meeting that something seemed amiss.
“What do you mean, ‘did I call the service provider’?” Christy asked. “You’ve never doubted me before, so why don’t you believe me now?” Her face felt hot, and blood pounded through her veins. “It’s as if you have never worked with me before! You know I always finish what I start, even if it means going home after seven. Why is today any different?”
…”Well, about that, Christy…I’ve been hearing things,” Mrs. Fist slowly explained. “There have been complaints from an unknown email source of negative comments you have made about work on your social networking site, and other comments that don’t match up to the holiness of our mission here. You’ve also lost several project files over the past few months. I’m afraid I’ll have to let you go.”
Christy struggled to keep her composure as she begged for one more chance. It was pointless to refute the “credible” sources Mrs. Fist had cited in their conversation. She didn’t even belong to a social networking site, and her completed projects always landed in Mrs. Fist’s in-box at the end of the day. “Mrs. Fist, if you let me stay for one more week I promise I will get to the bottom of this, and if it turns out you are right, you don’t have to pay me for that week. Please?”
Eugenia Fist let out a sigh, and relented. “Okay. One week.”
Christy roamed the nearly deserted office wondering if a black hole had suddenly opened up at work and swallowed her reputation and her missing files. She quietly packed up her purse, having deposited her finished projects in Mrs. Fist’s in-box. “G’night, Laura, I’ll see you in the morning,” she softly called to her co-worker.
…”Are you coming back?” Laura asked. ..”I mean, see you tomorrow,” she yawned with a half-smile.
…That was odd, Christy mused. Why did Laura ask me that? We see each other every day, except not lately for lunch, since she eats earlier with Wendy. Oh, well. I don’t have time to dissect every little thing, and tomorrow morning I’ll find out what happened to my files.
Power walking up to her car, she hastily pushed the button on her key fob and climbed inside. She drove home in silence, pondering the events of the day. After a bland dinner and a walk with her dog Rusty, Christy settled into bed and tried to sleep. Well, I guess I should just admit that I am not going to rest tonight, she thought, switching on the lamp. Maybe I’ll just check my email. Or better yet, maybe I should search for my name on the internet and see if I joined a social site and forgot about it. Maybe this is one big misunderstanding. After a quick search, Christy found her name on a web page well known among others in her age-set. As she clicked on a web page with her name, she gasped, seeing a photo of herself with an offensive caption that told the world she hated her boss, her co-workers, even the nature of her job. A second look showed a photo of Christy grinning ear to ear with a caption that read something about liking wild parties. Sickened, Christy ran to the bathroom and vomited. She frantically thought, this can’t be happening. I work for the church! My career and my reputation are ruined!
After shakily dressing, she decided to go see her parents, who lived on the other side of town. Dad will be sleepy, but he always has good ideas when I have a problem. Maybe Mom will have made some of her apple pie, and we can all figure out a solution to this mess, she thought. Until then, I hope no one sees the phony profile on OurPage, Christy worried. But first I’ll grab a cup of coffee at Joe’s. I wish they had a drive-thru, but they do have the best coffee in town….
Half-running, Christy hurried into the small town cafe and greeted the proprietor. “Hi how are you, Joe?” In her haste, her knee struck a nearby trash can, which spilled its contents all over the floor. She started to pick up the tossed napkins and paper cups, but Joe interrupted her actions, insisting he clean up. In her sleep-deprived state, she quickly confided the whole story to Joe. He had always been there for her, as Christy’s good friend since grade school.
“Don’t worry about that, here’s your coffee,” Joe smiled, after empathizing with Christy’s tale of woe. “Tell your Dad I said hello, and please remind him about golf on Tuesday.”
…”’K, ‘bye,” Christy called, and rushed out the door. Sometime later, after explaining the whole story to her parents, she felt ready to face the next day at work, confident that it would all work out. When she finally unlocked the door to her apartment, it was after two. Well, she thought, tomorrow will work out. Sleeping for an hour or two, the phone summoned her noisily. Who could that be?
..”Uh-yeah, Christy? It’s Joe,” the voice said. “Listen, we got ourselves a little situation here. After you left a woman came in for cheesecake and she was working on a laptop. I couldn’t help but notice your picture on the screen, so I went in closer for a better look,” he continued. “I think someone is posing as you on some web site. And I found something else. Could you come down here in the morning?”
As excited as Christy was, sleep soon found her. Sunrise came equally fast, and she was off in morning’s early glow to Joe’s Place. A quick cup and a cinnamon roll later, Joe arrived and handed her the mother lode.
..”Christy, I think this woman really has something against you, because she looked angrier and angrier as she typed stuff for ‘your’ profile on OurPage,” he said. “She kept muttering to herself about how she should be running the office, not you. The strangest thing was, she got so upset that she just left! Left everything here, her purse, her laptop, her food, everything. And look here, I think this is her name,” he gestured, pointing to the identification tag on the computer’s soft case. ..”Name’s Wendy Sollanger, does that ring a bell?”
“How can that be?” Stumbling as she rushed out the door, crying as she went, Christy fell headlong into the garbage can which propped open the swinging door. As she knelt to rub her throbbing leg, she glanced down and saw her signature scrawled on a piece of paper floating down the street…”What?” Christy ran after it in the morning chill, capturing a document she herself had prepared only last week. Her eyes swept back to the waste can. And…Oh my goodness, look at all of those files! Wendy must have taken them from the in-basket in Mrs. Fist’s office. Shock rippled through her, then anger, and after a time, steely resolve. Christy was going to march into work tomorrow and straighten this whole situation out with her boss. Even if is uncomfortable, I know she will understand, she thought. Everything is going to be alright!
Morning sunshine glimmered through the office windows. Mrs. Fist paced up and down, trying to stay calm, but finally lost her cool, saying that Christy suddenly finding all of this information was just too handy. Christy was still going to have to prove her innocence, she reasoned, but due to the fact that Wendy was nowhere to be found, a month long suspension for both employees would be better for everyone. That way, Wendy could meet with Mrs. Fist separately, and without fear of reprisal, speak up for herself. The police would have to be involved as well, since Christy was insisting that Wendy had posed as her on the website, and that was potentially fraudulent behavior. Eugenia Fist desperately wanted the police to get to the bottom of the whole thing. The missing files contained sensitive personal information about their clients, and if that leaked out, it would invoke a firestorm of bad press. It would be better to give the situation lots of time and see what played out.
Christy ran to her car after the meeting, crying hysterically. But Wendy slandered me! Why didn’t Mrs. Fist believe me, she agonized. A week was all I needed, and she broke her word. Now I’m can’t come back for a month if I’m lucky and I have no idea how I’m going to pay my bills. Thanks a lot for nothing!
Over time, Christy often thought of what she could have accomplished during the month she was suspended from work. Her time with friends dwindled, and she stopped working out at the gym. She would spend hours obsessing about her lost position, waiting for Mrs. Fist to call and tell her it was all a dreadful mistake. Then there were the nights spent curled up on the couch with a huge glass of wine, a habit Christy had never developed, until now. Wouldn’t it be nice if the earth just swallowed me up, because I feel like I am nothing, nothing, nothing!!! She screamed into the sofa pillow, though there was no one around to hear. …God is not listening to me, so why should I even try, she lamented. Counseling at the church had helped somewhat. Christy especially enjoyed describing to Father Patrick how jealous and unstable Wendy really was, and how much she wanted to make Christy look bad. Father McBride was a patient listener, but one day he told Christy what she did not want to hear, after she exploded with, “I’ll never be able to forgive that woman for what she did to my life, never, ever!” Anger boiled within Christy and she wanted it there, since it was the only thing she felt she could control.
The day Christy repeated her vow of perpetual anger, Father McBride surprised her by saying, “Christy, if that is how you really feel, I think I will have to ask you to leave.” Stunned, Christy stared at her parish priest. “At first, I know you felt wronged and really needed someone to listen, but being here is going to require some effort on your part.” Father Patrick McBride took a deep breath, and let it out. “Christy, you have been nursing your anger, nurturing it, letting it grow out of control. YOU are out of control. It’s time to let it go, for your sake, and for Wendy’s. She may have not asked you to forgive her, but she desperately needs it. Please don’t come back until you are ready to think about that.” As the door swung shut, Christy felt something stir within her, like she was opening her eyes to something she had wanted to see all along, but just couldn’t. That night in bed, she prayed that she would be granted sufficient grace through her baptism to begin the process of forgiving Wendy Sollanger. It might take years, but I will do it, but not because she deserves it! She deserves something far worse. Shutting her eyes tightly, Christy added a prayer to ask God to help her to stop thinking horrible thoughts about Wendy, and no more wine, she decided.
Mrs. Fist finally called late one night and invited her to a board meeting to present her case, and told her that the outcome of the police investigattion would be announced at the meeting. Christy was cautiously elated, wondering if everything would ever be alright. If the board of directors vote in my favor, I can come back to work, she thought excitedly. Making the sign of the cross, she prayed for herself and her situation. Christy also tried to pray for Wendy, just one teeny little prayer. Maybe I’ll get better at it over time, she thought, and went to sleep.
……”And in conclusion, with the matter at hand fully resolved, I support the reinstatement of Christy Wilson as office manager in charge of project development,” Mrs. Fist intoned to the board of directors. Everyone is here today, Christy thought, looking at the crowd of her co-workers, even all those people who didn’t seem to believe in me. The room went crazy as she emotionally re-accepted her post. Thank You, Lord, she sobbed, hugging Mrs. Fist, thank you!
That night at home Christy again gave praise for God and his mighty hand blessing her work at the non-profit. She drifted off, sleepily realizing that the real work was yet to be done, that it might take her some time before she could fully forgive Wendy. …Some good did come of all of this, she thought, and I’ll never forget Joe for what he did for me, tears sneaking from her eyes. At least now I know God is behind me and my work, and I can start to move on with my life.
Christy’s auburn hair softly brushed the pillow as she again asked God to help her to forgive. She asked not because Wendy asked her to, but because deep in her heart, she knew that God wanted it. It feels awful to be so angry at Wendy, she cried, and I want to be whole again. Afterwards, Christy was able to sleep peacefully for the first night in a month.
Many months went by. Then one day Christy caught a glimpse of Wendy while browsing at the corner drug store, but stayed in her hiding place among the greeting cards. Wow, I can’t believe I’m thinking this, but she actually looks pretty today. I hope her life is better now. She did have to go through her time at the mental hospital, and that must have been tough. Who knew she had experienced such a terrible childhood? I wonder if she ever thinks about what she did. With shaking knees, walking the short distance to the toothpaste aisle, Christy held out her hand to Wendy Sollanger and said hello.
Life was good again.