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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Red (10/01/09)

TITLE: No Longer Seeing Red
By Coleene VanTilburg


He lay awake, unable to sleep, seething in his own anger. How could this possibly be true? Why me?

Joel had worked at his job for twelve years now. He was an icon at the store, the guy who knew your name. He was popular among customers and well-liked by fellow employees. Management was becoming more difficult these days; it seemed store policy was changing more towards sales and meeting monthly goals than outstanding customer service. In Joel's heart though, he knew the customer was what really mattered and he always greeted each one with a smile and a genuine concern for their project. Many customers made their way to his desk because they knew from experience that Joel's special attention to detail would help to expedite their projects in a timely and efficient manner.

Joel worked behind the Special Order Desk. Construction was booming, homeowners were remodeling and he always had a constant flow of customers to help. Today though, life would change for Joel. He was at his desk as usual; making sure an order was being pulled for this afternoon's delivery, when he received a phone call.

"Joel, come back to the office please, right now," said a voice he knew belonged to his assistant manager.

Shuttled into a cramped office, Joel was told to sit amongst a panel of "selected" co-workers who looked rather perturbed at having to participate in this inquisition, among them the store loss prevention manager, his assistant manager and a girl from the computer room arrogantly assuming the transcriber role, poised with pen and notebook in hand.

The interrogation began after a lengthy fifteen minute spiel about company profits, theft, and more statistics about dishonest store employees usually being the worst when it came to retail sales. By this time, Joel assumed he might be a victim here of some misunderstanding for he could not think of why else they would be treating him as if he had committed some horrible crime. As “Mr. L.P.S.” continued to ramble on without asking Joel any direct questions, Joel interrupted.

"Should I be concerned about something here?" Joel asked innocently enough.

"Yes, you should,” said his assistant manager. "It has been brought to our attention that you seem to like giving our merchandise away."

Puzzled, Joel asked for an explanation.

"Did you not break up drywall and place it into the trunk of a customer's car that proceeded to leave the store with paying? I will remind you that we have you on camera.”

"Oh, Joel was then reminded, yes, Mrs. Valdes." "That was drywall for her water heater stand. You know the house across the street that burned last fall? She is the one I have been trying to organize a work day for. She still cannot move back yet and she has had break-ins and..."

"Excuse me, you obviously seem to know more about your customers than store policy," the assistant manager said disappointedly.

“It was the last piece of drywall and it was already broken up. I marked it down to zero and gave that one small piece to her, " Joel reasonably explained.

“We see your paperwork here, but who gave you the authority to mark it down to zero?"

Joel was placed on a five day suspension and then terminated. The home-improvement warehouse that encouraged the "restoration" of things ugly into something beautiful had done the opposite to him; made a beautiful gesture of kindness into something ugly. Tonight as he stared at the accusing glare of the alarm clock reading 2:30 a.m., he would have a talk with God, knowing he could not have peace with his red-flamed anger that now matched his discarded red apron that once brought him joy. God would gently remind him that all things worked together for good as he deleted the angry "letter to the editor" off his computer. He then read from the book of Micah as he prayed for his own restoration, for he knew God had marked his own sin "down to zero" and that he could stand, unashamed. Suddenly, he became very aware of the power he had to still change lives and make a difference. He didn't need a red apron to accomplish this, just the humble faith of a servant’s heart and God’s promise of hope.

Micah 6:8 ...and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Lisa Johnson10/08/09
My husband has worked for several of these "Boxes", and worn several different color aprons. The experiences have left him as angry as your MC, and somewhat jaded. I have made a copy of your story and plan to let him read it in hopes that he will follow your MC's lead back into God's good graces. Thanks for sharing.
Jan Ackerson 10/08/09
Kindness seems to be such a rarity sometimes, doesn't it?

I wonder if Joel could have avoided the hassle if he'd told a manager what he wanted to do...he probably didn't have the authority to give the piece away. The ending might be a bit too tidy.

I love your message of Christian kindness and mercy, and how there's always a way to show God's love.

Sherrie Coronas10/09/09
Such an unfortunate scenario that is all to real for our world today. Love the end!
Allen Stark10/11/09
Great piece! Maybe it's because I somewhat identify with what happened in the story. It does seem as though kindness and goodness, no matter how you try to spread it, is looked at by the world as outdated, even when attempting to write faith-based and moralistic newspaper columns to give people a look at how things could be if we dealt with each other differently.