Written by Keith Strohm
When I was the Chief Operating Officer of a small start-up publishing company, I spent a good part of my day dealing with employee issues, whether it was job dissatisfaction, job performance, or personal difficulties. Most of the time, it seemed like there was an endless stream of folks who needed to talk with me each day.
I really resented that, thinking that it was keeping me from my real work--until an employee walked in who had obviously been crying. It turns out that this woman's friend had been missing for a few days. The night before she had received a phone call from the police asking her to come down and identify a body. Her friend had committed suicide and she was the only one who could give a positive ID. Naturally, this woman was devastated--I was amazed that she even made it in to work at all.
We talked for quite a while--which mostly meant that I listened as she poured out all of the things that were on her heart. Now, I am not blessed with the charism of encouragement, but I did my best to really be present to her. She was an athiest--and a pretty wild one at that, but while she spoke I had a sense that she was searching for meaning in her friend's death. The only thing I could offer her was my presence--and somehow, for that moment, it was enough. There in my office, I had a sense that, through my willingness to listen, through the offering of my broken and limited gifts, that Christ Himself was present, listening and weeping and holding this woman in His arms.
At the end of our talk, I asked her if she would mind if I prayed for her and her friend. To my surprise, she said "yes." When this woman finally left my office, she still struggled with grief and devastation over her friend's death--but I know that she received some healing and peace in that encounter with Christ.
The whole experience brought me to my knees.
I began to understand that rather than being an interruption in my workday, dealing with the problems of my employees was perhaps my most authentic vocation. God had put me, in that company in that time and that place for a purpose. I began to see my employees as persons whom God had asked me to love and look out for, called to work for what was authentically human and good in their lives. That included making sure the business was healthy and strong.
Each day I sat in the parking lot in my car praying for the company and for each individual employee (we only had about 20). I've never looked at management the same since.
Christ in the marketplace.
How do you reflect the love and presence of Christ at work?
What are the difficulties in doing so?