The office Christmas party was in full swing. Rudy sat, sipping his champagne, mentally preparing for the speech he was about to give. It wouldn't be easy, particularly for him, but it had to be done.
"Hey boss! Merry Christmas!" Heidi from Accounts Payable called from the door. Rudy smiled slightly and waved. He watched as the last few people made their way in and started to mingle. The mood was lightly festive but Rudy felt a heaviness in the air. Then again, maybe it was just him.
Of his twenty-three employees, many were donning santa hats and eggnog mustaches. Behind their laughter, he knew many were struggling to stay afloat and his heart went out to them. There were thirteen men, twelve women. Fifteen were married and had families to support. Three were divorced and had large child-support payments each month. Four had huge college loans to pay off. Rudy sighed and once again knew with certainty he was doing the right thing.
Rudy made his way to the front and picked up the microphone. When the chatter died down, he began his speech.
"Thank you for coming tonight. I have to admit I am surprised that every single one of you made it. Praise God that none of you have come down with the flu that's been going around…" Rudy noticed a couple of the men shift in their chairs at his mention of God. But God was a part of his life and everyone knew it. If it made them uncomfortable, so be it. He went on.
"I know several of you have been whispering about whether or not there will be Christmas bonuses this year. Don't look so shocked - I have ways of knowing the talk that goes on around the water cooler," he smiled. "It's true the company has seen better days. To be honest, I considered doing away with the bonuses." Rudy paused and swallowed several times, blinking back tears that threatened. "But each one of you is so special. Your hard work and dedication to this company means more to me than you know. I appreciate you all so much."
He hesitated again and took the time to look each employee in the eye. He saw a couple of them had tears trickling down their cheeks as well.
"Money for the bonuses simply isn't in the budget." Noticing several concerned faces, Rudy quickly went on. "But right here," he said, pulling a stack of envelopes from his pocket, "is a check for every one of you."
"Where did it come from, if not from the budget?" Sam, head of Operations, hollered from the back.
"Let's just say it came from my heart. And my 401K," he laughed, trying to make it seem like no big deal.
"Well, I'm not taking your money!" Sam called.
"Sam," Rudy said, "You all deserve these checks. Please. I'll be insulted if you don't take it."
"Well I'm insulted that you think we're so desperate for money that we'd take yours! What do you think? That we'll kill ourselves over not getting a Christmas bonus? We don't need your money. We do just fine on our own!"
Rudy knew Sam and his wife were in debt up to their ears. He could use that money to put toward his bills.
Eleven of his employees crowded around Rudy to accept their envelope, overjoyed and thankful for this selfless gift of giving up his hard-earned money for them. Sam convinced the rest of them not to take those checks, arguing that taking Rudy's money would be an insult to their families.
Rudy couldn't believe it. Pride was getting in the way of these good people accepting his gift. All of them could have desperately used this check. But yet half refused.
Later, alone at home, Rudy talked to God. "I drained my 401K account willingly. I wanted to give my employees a gift to show how much I love and appreciate them. But most rejected it. God, I'm hurt. I sacrificed something important to me. Something that could have benefited them and made their lives a little easier. How could someone reject that?" Rudy placed his head in his hands and wept.
And Rudy heard the quiet whisper in his ear as God gently responded, "I know just how you feel."
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 (NLT)
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