“No!” Fred said, covering his overflowing ashtray, “You can clean everything else, but my desk is off-limits.” Fred needed me one-on-one.
I complied. How could I complain? I had a job that I thought I’d lose on my first day. When I realized the campus Human Resource Department had assigned me to a chemistry lab when I had taken Chemistry 101 twice to barely pass with a C-, I knew I had to inform my new boss even though I was sure he’d fire me. Fred had changed my job title from “lab technician” to “stockroom supplier” which enabled me to keep my job, and saved me the embarrassment of explaining my lack of chemistry knowledge.
My first day had been a blur. I envisioned blowing up the lab as Fred explained in chem-speak how to mix chemicals for the professors, and which ones needed ice for their cool-down periods. On my second day, I shared my predicament. Fred sighed for what felt like an eternity, and then he said he’d find a way for me to still mix chemicals. And he did. But the might-blow-up-the-lab concoctions Fred took care of personally.
This gave me tons of time to inventory what was on the stockroom shelves, pull and properly dispose of outdated chemicals, order new stock, change shelf paper, and fluff Fred’s chair daily, occasionally slipping a hand-picked flower onto the edge of his desk, secretly blowing ashes onto the floor so I could sweep them up. I was grateful Fred had permitted me to stay by creating the new job title.
Still, I wondered why I was there, and if I had proven useful to Fred at all.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.~Ephesians 2:4-5a NKJV
I never once saw Fred empty that ashtray. But more than the ashtray needed tending. Fred used tobacco and alcohol to cope with personal pain.
When this became apparent to his boss, a shouting match ensued. I silently prayed that the kindness Fred had shown me by permitting me to keep my job would be repaid, permitting him to keep his.
After a few tense days of no Fred, my boss showed back up.
“Gotta go to treatment. Don’t ask more,” he said.
I nodded, fluffed his chair while he fussed about it, and swept around his feet. Fred cursed as he lifted them for me to sweep there, and then pointed out the spot I missed, which I gladly cleaned up. Knowing he’d holler, I lifted the overflowing ashtray. He won. The mess stayed. Not to be emptied. Ever.
I finally knew why I was there. My job wasn’t about ordering supplies, cleaning, and inventorying, and certainly not about mixing lab concoctions. I was there for one reason—Fred needed to know that he mattered.
Fred is the one God sent me to, to value. After I realized this, he got more hand-picked flowers on his desk, more chair fluffing, and more of any other way I could find to show him he was a great man. Did he have brokenness? Yes. But I was confident I could be the vessel to share God’s love, and this love would overcome every deficiency.
Friend, who is the “Fred” or the “Samaritan woman” God has put into your life? You know what to do. Find your own way to fluff the chair, blow on the ashtray, and demonstrate to this person whom Jesus loves that they have value.
Who is the “Fred” God wants you to minister His love to?
Heavenly Father, help me to treat each person with supreme value. Help me to demonstrate by my actions, that I believe You create people in Your image and for a purpose.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Genre: Creative Non-Fiction
Copyright 2021: One-on-One: Diane Virginia: All Rights Reserved
Published: September 2021: Christian Broadcasting Network: Senior Producer Beth Patch