Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Yellow (11/12/09)
TITLE: Power Ties
By larry troxell
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I thank Shirley as she hands me the message with the phone number scrawled in large print. Shirley’s face appears flushed. Is she thinking she has started working for a big shot?
Straightening my yellow power tie as I head to the elevator, I hear Shirley call out, “Sir, they requested you call back by one o’clock.”
When I reach my fourth floor office, I immediately dial the governor’s number. I listen briefly, then commit myself to a 5 p.m. meeting.
My immediate supervisor, Ken Matthews, raps his knuckles on my door and asks if I could step over to his office for a moment.
“Sure.” Was I in trouble for the governor’s call?
“What’s up Ken? You look a little serious.”
“Close the door behind you. Have a seat; I want to talk for a couple minutes.”
Frankly, tension hangs in the smoke-free corner office as I watch Ken sip coffee from his mug with an imprinted photo of his grandchildren.
“This is personal. A brief man-to-man conversation.”
What’s going on here, I wonder, as I notice Ken fidget with his gold wedding band? Is he having marital problems? Or is he hacked off at me over the governor’s call?
“James, you’ve been here nearly six years, and your crew has missed the production deadline only three times. Twice due to computers crashing, and the third time; well, I can’t even remember what the reason was for that one. I want to personally thank you …”
“Thanks,” I nervously respond, checking if my yellow power tie is snug.
“No, I wasn’t thanking you for your performance. Yes, I am proud of your role in the company’s success but I mean I want to thank you for the obvious change in your life.”
Huh? Is Ken losing all his marbles?
“I wasn’t thrilled when the big boys assigned you to my division. You accomplished any task; however, at first I thought you were a real coward on the inside.” Ken paused, holding up his left hand as if he expected a blow. “Hear me out. You got the job done but you pushed your people with profanity and threats instead of encouragement. I believe anyone who uses God’s name in vain to achieve anything is really a wimp on the inside despite their visible success.”
“Come on Ken, I don’t operate that way any more,” I fire back in defense as I try to loosen my yellow power tie.
“I know. Couple years ago you dropped the profanity. Started asking your crew what you could do to help meet their respective schedules. Brenda says you accepted an invitation to her wedding, and several have told me you send get-well cards when a family member is sick or a personal handwritten note when they excel in their work.”
I’m speechless, feeling tears build up as I continue attempting to undo my yellow power tie.
“James, I haven’t kept it a secret I’m a Sunday School teacher and I try to live a life pleasing to God. I’ve never heard you talk about your spiritual life on the job but based on how you’ve conducted yourself around here the last couple years, I believe you’ve met Jesus. I just wanted to thank you.”
I quickly shake hands with Ken, muttering, “Thanks brother.” I slip out of his office and catch the elevator, trying to compose myself before I reach the lobby. I finally succeed in removing my yellow power tie and stuff it in my suit pocket.
Shirley looks up, smiles, and gently inquires if I had phoned the Governor’s Office.
“I must confess Shirley. I don’t know the governor. I have an interest in a small business and my partner and I use “Governor’s Office” as a code when he needs to talk to me after I finish work here. My employers know about my other financial interests. Forgive me for misleading you.”
A stunned Shirley laughs as I leave. Realizing the Son is shining in my life, I toss my yellow power tie into a trash can.
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