A short message that made a big impact on me.Was it Divinely sent?
Word Count: 1079
“I AM HERE”
By Donna Lowich
I was alone, or at least that is how I felt. In actuality, though, I was at work, in the office where I had worked for seven years. And, yes, there were people in and around the office. Despite all that, I felt alone.
How can someone be surrounded by people in an office and still feel isolated? Just add a newly-promoted manager to the mix; a manager who, in her own mind, now has to prove herself deserving of the promotion by making herself look good. The easiest way to do this, apparently, was by making someone around her look bad--someone, like me.
Elaine was using an almost-daily diatribe to belittle me in front of my co-workers. One particular day, the harangue began with the idea that she didn’t “trust my judgment” in answering a question that had come into the office. When I corrected her on the facts she had used to reach her unreasonable conclusion, she left the room, unapologetic.
But, even if there had been an apology, it would have been too late to redeem me in my co-workers' eyes. Most of them were temporary hires and they had solidified their opinions in the past few months. An apology on one issue wouldn’t change their already-formed opinions. The newest employees followed her every move. When she left the room, they followed, one by one. I was a pariah in my own office.
This had been going on for about six months. The temporary promotion was extended beyond the original plan of six weeks. Elaine, a former colleague and “friend” who had worked side by side with me for the past four years had turned on me in less time than it took to type the memo announcing her promotion.
It was the very next day following the promotion announcement. I entered the workroom, only to find Elaine engaged in conversation with Tom, a temporary worker who had been with us for the past two months. I caught the very end of the conversation, with Elaine ending her conversation with a derisive laugh: “… I don’t know what she was doing.” With another laugh, and a condescending look shot my way, she turned and gave me a humorless smile before walking out of the room.
Tom looked at me nervously, as I spotted a note I had written regarding an unpaid invoice inquiry that had come in from a phone call right before I had left the previous night. I had left it on my desk to get my attention first thing in the morning. It was now on Tom’s desk.
“Tom, was Elaine talking about me?” my voice was hoarse and in a low whisper. I was sure I knew the answer but I had to ask.
Tom squirmed in his chair and then answered with a meek “yes,” not sure whether he should betray Elaine.
However, this was not the only incident in which Elaine made it clear to everyone in the office about her feelings towards me. As I came back from lunch just a few weeks later, I saw the staff coming out of the workroom in a group. Curious, I asked Janice, another of the temporary workers, what was going on.
She averted her eyes, put her head down, and muttered that they had just had a staff meeting.
“But,” I protested, “I didn’t even know there was going to be a staff meeting.”
“Well, you asked, and I told you,” she scolded before she scurried off.
Usually non-confrontational, I decided it was time to face Elaine and to ask her why the meeting had been held without me. She looked up from her desk, and snapped, “This is my management style. You are just going to have to get used to it. If I want to have a staff meeting with just some of my staff, then that’s what I will do.”
She went back to reading the memo on her desk. It was her way of telling me that my time in her office was over. It was her unspoken invitation for me to leave.
I was almost in tears. I seriously considered quitting my job. I didn‘t want to do it but my innate stubbornness went head-to-head with the reality of what I was facing. The daily verbal assaults left me feeling alone and very vulnerable, and they were taking their toll.
“Back to work,” I thought to myself as I returned to my desk. “I don’t want to give her any more fodder to attack me with.”
My attention went back to my computer screen in front of me. I was just starting to type when the screen went blank and quickly flashed to a very light grayish color. Three words appeared for only a splinter of time:
I AM HERE
I shook my head, and did a double take at the screen. It was gone as quickly as it had appeared. I switched to my email to see if I had gone into a message by accident. There was nothing strange and no new messages there. I checked back to the files I had used that morning, and all were untouched and unchanged.
My first reaction was that it was a sign of Divine intervention. That in and of itself was comforting to me at a time when no one in the office would strike up a conversation with me, especially when Elaine was nearby.
This seemingly small incident did not leave me untouched and unchanged. To the contrary, the feelings of loneliness from earlier that morning were gone, and I found the strength to face the day, and all the difficult days to come while Elaine remained in charge. My divinely-sent “instant message” provided me with the strength and inner peace to remain in the job that I loved. Thoughts of quitting vanished and I managed to hold on until Elaine’s temporary promotion was over. She was angry that the promotion was not made permanent, and left the department shortly thereafter.
What had just happened? Or, a more basic question: did anything happen? Was it a message to give me comfort, or was it simply a figment of a mind in need of comfort? Some may chalk it up to the latter but I know what I saw. The Good Lord was with me even when I was convinced that no one else was.