Dear Reading Friends, this is David Telbat. Have you ever felt like the boss is watching you, even though you’re not at work? The whole premise of the TV show, Undercover Boss, inspired me to write the following story. The Bible reminds us to be hospitable to everyone and to always live as though Christ is present—because He is! In an age when being a Christian may get a Christian fired, here’s a story about the opposite. I hope you live like your Heavenly BOSS is watching all the time!
The Boss is Watching
by D.I. Telbat
Joan Hope was thrilled to be working in the big city, even if she had to commute by rail forty-five minutes each way every day. Her big dreams of being an architect began with the apprenticeship at the largest firm in the city. Her husband and all of her friends at church supported her dreams of building up a good reputation, then opening up a local office. What opportunities were before her!
After just a couple weeks of commuting, Joan’s routine was established alongside others who moved to and from the suburbs as she did. They were sharp talkers and dressers, and they welcomed Joan’s friendly personality and quick smile into their midst.
However, as much as Joan appreciated their acceptance, their conversation was much different than she was used to. They often used profanity and gossiped constantly about their co-workers. A couple of them even boasted about having affairs.
But Joan hadn’t been part of the popular crowd in high school or college. Now, she was one of them, and a couple of the single businessmen kept flirting with her, making her blush. They weren’t Christians, but she wasn’t crossing any lines, she told herself. She was just commuting with them.
Gradually, Joan began to look forward to the commute with her new friends as much as she looked forward to her new job. Feeling guilty about gaining the world’s approval, she didn’t even tell her husband about her new acquaintances.
One day, a middle-aged, disheveled woman stumbled down the center aisle, and Joan’s new friends hushed themselves. The woman wore two filthy sweaters and her hair was frazzled. Steve, a young man about to take his bar exam, leaned toward Joan.
“Here comes Food Face. Watch this!”
Steve stood up in the aisle and blocked the way of the homeless woman. He held up his hand.
“Sorry, Princess. I’m with the Food and Drug Administration.” Steve kept a straight face, though his friends barely smothered their laughter. With his hands, Steve pretended to write down notes. “Let’s see here. You have something that looks like jam on your left cheek. That’ll be a fine of two cats. That smell. Is that cheese? That’s a fine of at least four beer cans. And there, in your hair, I think I see a pretzel. Do you even have enough cats and cans to pay the fine this time?”
The frightened woman stood passively as she was abused. Finally, she shook her head sadly. Steve bowed, and everyone in the car erupted in laughter. Except Joan.
“This once, Princess Food Face,” Steve said, “I’ll let you pass. Be sure to pay the fine at the next dumpster you find.”
The woman nodded, clutched the top of her outer sweater, and shuffled past. Joan looked down at the floor to avoid eye contact with the woman. After what Joan had just witnessed—she was too ashamed to speak. The woman’s eyes had seemed alert, but she had clearly been confused and frightened of Steve.
Steve playfully nudged Joan’s shoulder.
“You’ll get used to ol’ Food Face,” he said with a chuckle as the others returned to their conversations. “She comes through here every few weeks. Hey, maybe next time we’ll have you play the food administrator, huh?”
“Yeah, maybe.” Joan smiled, but felt like throwing up. She looked after the woman, who’d already moved to the next car. Did the woman even realize what a spectacle they’d made of her? She hoped not.
At work that day, Joan did her best to put the whole incident out of her mind, but she couldn’t. She was too ashamed to even text her mother and tell her about it.
During the commute home that evening, Joan prayed she didn’t find the homeless woman in the same car with them. She settled into a seat with her friends like always, and listened to their careless banter. Would she become like them after a year of commuting to the big city? The thought made her shiver—not because she believed she was better than they were, but because she knew she was weak and would be just like them, given enough time of hanging around the group.
And according to Steve, her turn at “food inspector” would probably be pushed upon her as a sort of initiation amongst them. Perhaps, it would be better to disappoint them sooner rather than later, she thought.
“Hey, Jo,” Steve called as she gathered her case to leave the car. “Where you going?”
Her new friends looked up, their conversations on hold.
“That woman this morning—”
“Who? Food Face?” Steve wiped imaginary food from his cheek. “What is that? Peanut butter? How old is that?”
They all laughed. Except Joan.
“That’s somebody’s mother, daughter, maybe sister. That could be my mother.”
“Yeah, but Jo, come on. It’s not your mother.” Steve smiled one of his handsome smiles. “Don’t be like that. We were just having fun. I’m not really a food administrator, remember?”
They laughed again. Joan didn’t like being laughed at.
“Thanks, guys.” Joan took a deep breath and nodded. This was what it was like to be part of the popular people, for a little while. “See you on the rails, huh?”
She left them in silence and passed into another car. When she squeezed into an empty seat, she was nearly in tears. Suddenly, she looked into the face across from her. It was the homeless woman, and she had fresh food on her face.
“Why aren’t you back there with your friends?” the woman asked, her voice strong, her eyes daring.
“They’re not my friends. Not anymore. Not after this morning.” Joan leaned forward, offering her hand. “My name is Joan. What’s yours?”
“Nice to meet you, Claudia.” Joan smiled.
“Oh, we’ve met before.”
“Of course,” Joan said, already enjoying the unpredictable conversation with the strange woman more than the attention of Steve and the others. “We met this morning. I remember. You want to split this with me?”
Joan offered a bagel she’d not eaten at lunch. The woman’s grubby fingers reached out and took half.
“No, we met about two months ago.” Claudia took a bite. “When you came to work for me.”
“You think I work for you?” Joan nodded, familiar with dementia patients after her church youth group had visited a convalescent home each winter. “Do you know what I do? I’m an architect! A very exciting job!”
“Correction. You’re an architect apprentice, young lady.” Claudia winked. “I’m Claudia De Carlo, Miss Joan Hope.”
“Claudia De Carlo?” Joan felt the blood drain from her face. “Of the De Carlo and Sons? You’re—”
“Yes, Claudia De Carlo. I’m one of the partners who brought you on board. How do you like the office?”
“What? This?” Claudia swept a hand at bagel crumbs. “We have hundreds of people from our building who ride these trains. Every few months, I like to see who our people are when they’re not at the office. Don’t worry. You’re not supposed to recognize me.”
“I’m . . .” Joan gasped and looked down at her half of the bagel. “I’m so ashamed after this morning.”
“I figured you must be. Your application with us said you’re a church-goer. Does that have anything to do with why those people aren’t your friends any longer?”
“Yes, it does.” Joan wiped at a moist eye and sat up straighter. “Jesus. He’s not my Best Friend for nothing, even if that sounds corny.”
“It’s not corny, if that’s what’s really inside you. I’m pleased someone like you is with our firm, Miss Hope. But those people are in for a surprise.” She gestured at the other car. “I’ve used my phone to identify most of them, and I know their bosses and supervisors. The De Carlo’s have connections, you see. It’s time Princess Food Face texted a few CEOs to tell them how they’ve been treating Claudia De Carlo!”
Joan gasped and covered her mouth as her boss drew a cell phone from the folds of one of her sweaters and began typing a text. Settling more into her seat, Joan reflected on her relationship with Jesus Christ. He had just saved her job!
The End of “The Boss is Watching”
Prayer Prompt: Dec 23 newsletter update on Gideon, the Vision Beyond Borders contact in the refugee camps: “Gideon is still being held on false charges. His family has been told that a general is coming to meet with him, and they intend to hold him until after Christmas. Please pray for Gideon and his family during this difficult time. He is a mighty servant of God, and has given his life to serve the children for many years. Please uphold him in prayer!”