Joseph walked down the long courthouse hallway one painful step at a time. His body moved slowly but his eyes darted around looking for her.
She sat on a long bench fingering her blouse sleeve and silently praying. There was both immediate recognition and dawning shock as she realized that this shell of a man was her once trusted friend.
"Joseph...," she whispered.
She quickly gathered her things and moved to a different bench, fear and nerves causing her to drop her paperwork. She gathered it up as quickly as she could and looked up seeing Joseph leaning on his cane, staring at her.
His sad and emaciated condition drew her to him but the restraining order kept her from advancing his way. No, she was bound by law now. It was out of her hands.
She was an Asset Manager overseeing, among other things, the management of a dilapidated condominium in Waikiki. She had many titles and responsibilities but her chief task was to rid the condo of its crime and dreadful reputation, while renovating the building with a nearly nonexistent budget.
From the first day, she was torn between two missions: save the building or show the people salvation. Her job description said that the prostitutes and drug dealers were a scourge to be rid of, her faith said that they were wandering children waiting to be found. And so began an epic struggle. Daily she was pulled between two forces.
Joseph was trouble with a capital T. He harassed people in the building by frequently urinating in the stairwells and wiping paint and feces on their doors. She and the resident manager called everyone they could to help but it never came. He owned his unit and couldn't be kicked out.
The daily struggle to perform her job and live out her faith wore on her but she found strength in Jesus and made a regular habit of asking friends for prayer cover. She needed it urgently as Joseph's antics accelerated.
At Christmas she baked cookies for her staff. As she drove to work, her box of beautifully wrapped peanut butter cookies sitting on the passenger seat, she knew with a strong, agonizing certainty that the Lord was asking her to give Joseph cookies.
Two hours later she was knocking on his door praying that he wouldn't answer.
"What do you want?"
"Uh... hi.....good morning. God told me to give you cookies and tell you that He loves you."
His scowl fell away, "You made cookies for me?"
"Yes, for you. Merry Christmas."
"You're welcome. Um...well.... goodbye."
She pressed the elevator button repeatedly, begging it to come faster. Once inside she breathed at last and thanked God for helping her.
From that day on Joseph was a different man. Not perfect, but different. His problems in the building greatly diminished and over time she and Joseph became friends. She discovered that he was a kind and intelligent man. Progress was being made in the building and in Joseph.
But, then she hired a new resident manager, Cliff, from a meager list of candidates. The buildings reputation made finding someone good a daunting assignment. Cliff and Joseph were immediately at odds. He accused Joseph of being up to his old tricks. And, Joseph made accusations of his own. It grew ugly fast and she, once again, was torn between her faith and her job...and in her fatigue, the job won.
Out of desperation she sided with the manager and Joseph began to slide backwards at the betrayal. His tirades returned and escalated to threats and vulgar graffiti aimed at her. Afraid for her safety, she filed a restraining order which Joseph immediately violated. At last, the police took notice but she soon left her job, the strain was taking its toll on her health.
But, in the long months waiting for the trial the whole truth came out. Cliff really was the nightmare that Joseph said he was and she knew she should have listened to her friend.
At the courthouse she asked the prosecutor to drop the charges and asked Joseph's attorney to tell him she forgave hm. She sent him a card, asking him to forgive her and reminding him that while he breathed he was never too far gone for the love of Christ. Not long after that Joseph died and she never knew if he went to his grave redeemed or not.
Betrayal and regret are pitiful companions.
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