Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Answered Prayers

Yesterday did not start out very well.

Early in a workday a colleague and I were conferring about a project we're working on together. We're both writers and editors, and I'd been gathering some sources for a story she's working on. We'd reached the point where I'd gathered the initial responses from these sources and turned them over to my colleague who was responsible for the piece in question. She was going to work with the contributors to get their pieces integrated into the piece. She asked me to read over an e-mail she was going to send to one of the contributors suggesting some mild edits to his piece. This sort of request is standard procedure for a project like this, and her message was very carefully and diplomatically worded. I told her I thought her e-mail looked fine, and she sent it.

Less than a minute later, the recipient called her up in a rage. He had just read her e-mail (very quickly) on his Blackberry while sitting in traffic in Los Angeles and immediately called to tell her how offended he was that she suggest he modify his piece in any way. How dare she question his expertise. Never mind that she needed to integrate his piece with others so that they would roughly match in tone. Never mind that she's a professional editor who's been doing this for more than a decade. Never mind that Steven King himself has to put up with editing. She was out of line to suggest that his piece was anything less than perfect, and he was going to take his loud complaints to the highest people possible in our organization. We work for a non-profit, and this person was chosen for this project because of his supposed love for the institution, but he vowed he would never do anything to help us ever again. Then, when he had my colleague in tears, he hung up on her.

I was dumbfounded. She had no idea the call was going to go this way, so she'd left her office door open and I'd heard the whole thing—at least her end. I'd heard her voice start to tremble as she tried to reason with him. I knew this person was a little high-strung, but I hadn't imagined this would happen. I consoled her as best I could, agreeing that his behavior was completely out of line, and then she went to get coffee.

The rest of the morning was a bit shaky. I kept expecting someone to start screaming at me at any second. Everyone in the office had heard about what happened, and we were all rather subdued. None of us likes getting yelled at by unreasonable people, and an attack on one of our colleagues feels a bit like an attack on all of us.

Later, I finally escaped the office to go to an annual luncheon for an organization to which I belong. As soon as I walked outside some of the weight lifted—it was beautiful and sunny, a perfect day. The lunch raised my spirits even more—good food, enjoyable conversation, and fun entertainment. At the end, they drew names to see who would take home the little potted plants that were centerpieces on the tables. They were very lovely, but I realized wistfully that I'd have no place to keep one if I won it—I live in an association with common lawns where I can't have a flower bed, and I can't keep plants inside or my cats will eat them and then throw up.

Then it hit me. My coworker loves flowers. I picked out a pink one on a table across the room and thought it suited her just perfectly. "Please, God," I prayed, "Let me win that flower." And I did. When I got back to the office, I asked my coworker if she'd like to have it, and she eagerly accepted. "This will look just lovely on my porch," she said. Then she gave me a hug and thanked me for being kind to her on her bad day. Somehow between a luncheon and a flower, the day got better for both of us, and at quitting time we both left in reasonably high spirits.

I don't always expect my prayers to be answered. Sometimes I get so jaded about it that I don't want to ask for anything at all. But then these little moments come up, and that urge to do something like give a coworker a flower pops into my mind. I can't help but pray in those moments, and when my prayer is answered, a little bit of my cynicism rubs away. I remember that God does answer prayers, and that He's there to cheer us up when some jerk yells at us for no good reason. So thanks, God, for the flower. It was a nice gesture, and I'm glad you gave me the idea and the luck to pull it off.

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