OUR CONSTANT RESORT
WRITTEN BY JOY A. ADEWUMI
‘Ketu, Mile 12, Ikorodu garage! Ketu, Mile 12, Ikorodu garage!’ The bus conductor announced at the top of his voice, though one could barely notice his effort in the loud Ojota garage. I picked up my pace as I willed my tired legs to move a bit faster to catch a seat on the fast filling bus before the rush hour fully bloomed.
As it stood, at that evening hour of five pm, it was already late and I knew before I’d get to Ikorodu garage, it would be at least a good two hours or even more, depending on how heavy the traffic became. As I fought my way to catch the next to the last seat on the bus, I sighed with relief. Settling into the uncomfortable seat, I willed myself not to cry at the thought of how bad my back would ache by the time we got to our destination.
With a shake of my head, I wondered how one day could house so much unpleasantness. Even the seat I chanced in on the bus was unforgiving. Days this bad were far and in between but it didn’t change how unbearable they were when they came.
Sometimes the hard balls life throws at me, like the ones that had been thrown at me so far that day, made me wonder if these were all part of God’s thoughts of peace and not of evil to give me hope and a future.
My mind flashed back to the situation that greeted me when I resumed at my office, located at Ikeja, earlier in the day.
‘Monike! Great, just the person I’m looking for!’ I hiked one amused eyebrow at Clara as she bustled towards me, gesticulating. Ever the drama, queen! I smiled.
‘What’s the gist this early morning o?’ I humoured her with a small laugh.
It was her turn to hike her brows at me as she noticed the tease in my words.
‘See, Mr Brainard is blowing hot like mad this morning.’
I scoffed as we walked towards my team’s office. Mr Brainard was always blowing hot, that wasn’t news. ‘Isn’t it too early for him to have found something unsatisfactory in some staffer’s performance? It’s barely 8 am.’
‘Apparently, it’s an unsatisfactory performance from yesterday,’ Clara clarified.
‘Oh?’ Typical of Mr Brainard to ruin a poor employee’s day by starting it on the note of a query. ‘And who’s this unlucky fellow that has the misfortune of incurring Mr Brainard’s anger this beautiful morning?’
Clara did not even pause as her shoe clicked on the tiled floor beside me. ‘You!’ She blurted.
I stopped in my tracks and she stopped too, almost immediately. Then her hands flew to her lips as though she just realised what she had said.
‘What?’ My blood ran chilly. Mr Brainard always blew hot with everyone but I, particularly, did not have a good relationship with him. Old story.
‘Something about your team not meeting the performance optimum yesterday,’ she shrugged slightly.
‘Nonsense!’ I resumed walking again. ‘I always check to make sure we meet up every day. He’s just looking for some-‘ I argued, as I began to blow hot.
‘Monike, are you sure? Because it was right there on the board for everyone to see.’ She asked, interrupting my rebuttal.
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My brows furrowed. ‘That’s impossible. We always…’ My voice trailed off as my memory clicked on a particular fact! Oh, dear word! I was toast. Badru, one of my teammates, was working late on his quota yesterday and I didn’t want to be kept till the rush hour. So, I trusted him to finish and confirm we met up.
An ache began to work its way into my temple and I rubbed at the spot. This was bad. It was either Badru did not finish his quota or he did not enter his results. It had to be one of them.
As I drew closer to the office, I sighted Badru frantically typing and clicking away at his desktop. Medicine after death. He was a good guy, he must have explained the situation to Mr Brainard, but that would not matter. Mr Brainard was already like a dog with a bone. He’d been looking to pick a fight for ages and I’d been dodging all attempts, but today wasn’t my lucky day.
Talk of the devil. He stood fuming a few feet from Badru, obviously waiting for me to arrive. I could almost see the fumes coming out of his ears.
I took in a deep breath and asked God for wisdom to handle the situation right and not misrepresent Christ. This I had to do because Mr Brainard was that one person who could bring out the worst in me. A silent calm entered my heart and I glanced at Clara who gave me a sympathetic smile. I nodded at her with a small, fake smile and walked in, with my head held high.
‘And here she comes!’ Mr Brainard hailed with a grim smile.
I smiled thinly at him and greeted, ‘A glorious morning to you too, sir.’
‘Isn’t it unfair that you can easily find it a glorious morning when you went home yesterday after irresponsibly leaving the company’s performance and by extension, prosperity, in jeopardy?’ One annoying perfectly arched brow stood on the edge of his face. Drama king!
I glanced at the board. 58%. Sixty was the optimum. Any other person would have overlooked it, seeing as we seldom fell short. In fact, we were the only team that ever made it to an eighty. Our average performance was 67%. But, of course, this was Mr Brainard and this was a vendetta against me as the team leader. I glanced at Badru and the remorse look on his face was my complete undoing. He was the trustworthy sort. I had absolutely no regrets for having left things in his care. If he had left things half-done, I could wager, if I were a betting person, that he had a very good reason for it.
I managed another smile. ‘I am sorry, on behalf of my team, for this irresponsible oversight. It would, of course, not repeat itself, again.’
‘Irresponsible, I agree, Miss Kajola. But, oversight? Surely, you do not expect me to believe that. For someone of your degree of intentionality, one should be able to deduce that this was a deliberate attempt to bring down the company.’
I wanted to laugh. And despite how serious the situation was, I might have laughed if I didn’t find his dramatic nature so disgusting. If only I could record his words and replay them to him, he might probably realise how stupid and dumb he sounded at that point.
The scolding in my spirit called my errant and insulting thoughts back home with a great deal of remorse. Though I just wanted to ignore the man seeing as his words did not warrant any intelligent reply, I, nonetheless, sighed and repeated, this time, at a slower pace. ‘Once again, on behalf of my team and I, we apologize for the degree of our irresponsibility in attaining a 58 out of 60%, sir.’
His eyes widened at my elaborate apology, but a small laugh covered with an elaborate cough soon revealed to all, why I went to such lengths
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It was the MD. Apparently, he was seeking Mr Brainard out when he chanced upon the drama. On sighting him, I deliberately spelt out the sin for which I was being punished so he could see how ridiculous the situation was and come to my rescue as he was one of the few who could talk any measure of sense into Mr Brainard. Thankfully, as he came in and cajoled Mr Brainard out of my office, that ended the session.
I thought that was all until just about halfway into the day, I got a call that my nephew for whom I was responsible at the moment was involved in a fight for which he was the instigator and stood the risk of suspension. My head rang.
What on earth was I supposed to do with a troubled kid who’s been suspended from school, with my crazy schedule?
I pleaded to no avail with the school principal but she insisted I had to come in the next day if I didn’t want him suspended from the school, which of course would mean being thrown out of the school hostel.
I groaned at the impossibility of meeting her demands. My brain was still reeling from the thought of how to handle Carl’s situation when Badru walked up, gingerly, to me.
His cautious steps made me want to laugh despite my situation. He probably thought I blamed him for this morning hullabaloo and, of course, the frustrated look I wore at that moment couldn’t possibly have helped his train of thought.
‘Monike, I think there’s a problem.’
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I groaned audibly and palmed my forehead in frustration. If Badru thought it was a problem, then it most probably called for serious concern, but I wasn’t sure I could handle any more concerns today.
‘What is it?’ I asked.
‘I think someone tampered with some numbers.’
Oh, goodness gracious! The worst! ‘How bad is it?’
‘Enough to raise eyebrows.’ Badru replied, typing and clicking at the desktop to show me the problem.
I did a quick study and willed back tears of relief. No one tampered with the numbers, rather, someone did a rather shoddy work of balancing them. This wasn’t so bad after all. At least, that was what I thought until I began tackling the problem only to realise that whoever made this mistake had been making it for as long as he/she had been in charge.
The numbers were messed up and it took my experience to figure out that they were not deliberately tampered with. I was furious!
At 2 pm, I was still trying to get my quota of the team’s work done and was also intermittently going back to resolve the number issue before someone like Mr Brainard notices and accuses my team of malpractice.
I had missed my lunch, and was testy! I was so close to calling the person whom I had now figured was the culprit for the messed up numbers and venting all my anger and frustration at her! But I barely kept it together.
Finally, at four pm, after working at twice my normal pace and almost nonstop, I finished working the numbers. I had made up my mind to tell Sade, the lady on the numbers never to touch my numbers again. I didn’t care if I sounded harsh. I was at least, allowed that little leeway.
No, you’re not. She’s not the reason for your frustration, don’t make her a scapegoat.
I wished the Holy Spirit did not choose that time to interfere. However, I was glad He did. If I had gone ahead with my plans, I would have hurt the lady, and ruined my testimony, in the same vein, then, I would have ended up hating myself.
So, instead, at 5 pm, after confirming all my teammates at finished their quota for the day and I had confirmed our performance was a solid 65%, I walked over to Sade’s table, and with a measure of grace I didn’t know I had left in me, I told her to see me before the week ended to learn the proper way to work the numbers. Then, with a large dose of humour, I told her not to touch my numbers till she had learnt how to go about it. At my explanation of what she had put me through trying to correct her mistakes, she looked ready to cry. I was so glad I had heeded the Spirit’s warning. What would have happened if I had vented my frustrations at her?
I snapped from my reverie as someone tapped me to draw my attention to the bus conductor who was asking for his fare. As I paid, trying not to mind the ache that was beginning to plague my waist and back, I prayed the day held no other unpleasant surprises.
But it seemed it was bent on being the worst, because, apart from having to survive a four-hour traffic between only between Irawo bus stop and Agric bus stop, I came upon a crazy riot at Ikorodu garage.
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As I ran with a few others for some kind of refuge, I prayed that we were not headed for trouble that was more terrible than the one we were running from.
When we finally found refuge in a fairly big pharmacy, it took all I had not to crumble in tears at the unfairness of it all. What was it with this particular day? And why did God only show up when I was about to do something He didn’t like, like insult Mr Brainard in my mind, or plan to vent my frustrations at Sade? It was not fair!
Soon, quiet descended on the area and after leaving our refuge, my impromptu companions and I cautiously walked towards the busy garage area where the nightlife had resumed as if nothing unusual had just happened.
I suppose it was a big testimony that a ride to Ebute that would have been hard to come by, was miraculously easily available that night. Maybe God wasn’t been as inattentive as I had accused Him of in my emotional outburst earlier.
Thankfully, I got home an hour from midnight and collapsed on the bed, barely making it out of my work clothes.
Then, after a shower that took all my energy to pull off as I ensconced in my bed, happier than ever to have such a luxury, I asked the Holy Spirit meekly,
‘Did I offend you?’
You know you didn’t.
‘So, what happened today?’
Life happened. I never promised you a bed of roses. Life always happens, but the beauty of your communion with Me is that when life happens like it did today, I’m always there to guide you through. Always there for you to lean on. Always there for you to turn to. I am your constant and unfailing resort. More so, when I allow life to happen to my beloved like this, you must know it is for a reason.
My constant and unfailing resort. That phrase brought immeasurable calm and peace to my heart and somehow, the world seemed brighter from where I stood. It brought to mind one of my all-time favourites from the scriptures:
Be my strong refuge, To which I may resort continually; You have given the commandment to save me, For You are my rock and my fortress. It was from Psalms Seventy-one verse three.
But then, a reason? The Holy Spirit had said all that happened had happened for a reason. I knew I ought to take Him at His words, but I couldn’t help feeling that today was just simply my most unlucky day in a while. Especially since there was still the issue of my nephew’s possible suspension. I was at my wit’s end with that one.
With a sigh, I turned on the bed. ‘Thanks for protecting me through that riot and thanks for not letting me ruin my testimony today. I’m truly grateful also because I know you will help me out with Carl’s situation. You’ve never left me in the lurch. You won’t now.’
Though your testimony is certainly most important, there are other things you would have lost, had you not heeded my words.
Yea? Things like? However, I didn’t remember getting a reply to that one. I must have slept off at that point.
The next day I woke up to a niggling urge to call my nephew’s hostel master. He had picked on the first ring, which was a blessed surprise, he was usually harder to reach at that time of the day. I pleaded with him to represent me as Carl’s guardian and explain my position to the Principal. He was more than willing to help and even boosted my spirits when he said he had been praying for the young boy.
That was to be the start of a beautiful day, a complete opposite of the previous one, but also a clear product of it.
‘Miss Kajola! There you are, please, do take a seat.’ My MD greeted me with a smile as I entered his office at about midday. This was after I got a notification from his secretary that he needed my attention.
‘Thank you, sir.’ I had no idea why I was here, I just knew he was not the sort to deliver bad news with a smiley face. So, this had to be good.
‘Well, even though I’m tempted to beat around the bush, I won’t. We recently carried out a performance survey of our team leaders and I must say I’m impressed. Your approval ratings by your superiors and subordinates, alike, are completely off the charts. The decision of whom to give the recently opened junior manager position was not a hard decision for the board to make. Congratulations, Miss Kajola, you’re the newest junior managing executive here at Balmers Inc!’
My eyes widened in shock for a while, but I regained my composure soon enough as he stretched his hand for a handshake. I never saw this coming! I knew the position was open but there were too many people I felt were better qualified for the position. But this? Me, getting the position? It was beyond my wildest dreams.
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Suddenly, as the MD referred me to HR for the details of remuneration on my new position, I remembered what the Holy Spirit ministered the previous night.
If I had reacted to all that happened the previous day the way I wanted, without the heeding the leading of the Holy Spirit, I would have taken out my aggression on all and sundry and those approval ratings would have crashed like crypto on a bad day. Of course, one is not expected to be perfect, but I would have failed the performance survey woefully as no one would have cared if I was having a terrible day or not. All they would have seen would have been the crazy, rude and uncharitable Monike. No matter that just the day before I was their favourite person.
Wow! Thank you, Jesus! That was all I could muster in my mind as I smiled back at the MD and partially listened to the details of my new position.
God is our unfailing and constant resort regardless of how rough and tough life may seem any given time. You can lean on Him. You can rely on Him. You can rest assured in the hope you have in Him because His thoughts for you are of good and not evil.
Know this, and know peace.