I hired this lady to assist me in my catering business. Let’s say her name was Elizabeth, fictionally. Elizabeth came through a referral. So, we met. Everything that her body language said and acted out was that she needed the job so badly. I welcomed her, after all, I needed the assistance too. At first sight, I liked her. After our first chat, we came to an agreement on her salary to be monthly. The decision to hire her at that time was when I was in between crossroads. One that you’ll advise me that I should not be hiring an employee at that time. But also, you would still tell me to go ahead and follow my mind because I needed it desperately. So, I did, and it made sense.
Elizabeth started out okay and we worked together for a while. Shortly after, I received my call-up letter for Nigeria’s Youth Service. I was both happy and sad at the same time. I had been waiting for this letter for a year, and just when I had gotten my hands busy up to the point of a new hire, the letter dropped like a bomb in my mailbox. I spent a few days thinking, and calculating, and mapping the next decision I would take for my life and for my business.
A few weeks before I was due to leave for the Nigerian Youth Service, I called Elizabeth to share my decision with her. Since NYS meant relocating to another Nigerian state, I knew I would not be around for another year. As an overthinker, I had already calculated what I wanted to tell Elizabeth and how it could play out. I thought about handing my business to Elizabeth, not as my employee, but as her own business for the period I would be away. So, I invited Elizabeth to my father’s house and we had a good chat. It was clear from her reception that she loved my idea of handing my eatery outlet keys to her. It was a good relief for me. So, I explained to her about the handing over process. Elizabeth consented.
After our chat, Elizabeth and I had lunch together at my home. We talked about other things, including her birthday, which she said was the next week from that day. She also mentioned that she had lost her mother at the time. (I later discovered that this had happened a long time ago, but she had told me this to gain my sympathy and perhaps, “beg for money.”) Elizabeth asked me if I could help her celebrate her birthday. I giggled, then asked her if she’d rather celebrate her birthday or focus on her mother’s funeral. Elizabeth replied that the focus should be on the living because her mum was already gone. “Okay”. I said. “I will see what I can do”. At this time, it was 9 days to the end of the month when her pay was due. We didn’t talk about it as there was no need for it. So, the day ended well.
Two days later, my brother and I were discussing my business and just chatting away in my bedroom early in the morning when we heard a loud banging on our gate. We paused to confirm that it was really our gate that the sound was coming from, then went to investigate.
My dad, who was outside, started shouting, “Who is that?!” as if he was startled. However, the banging continued. With my sleeping robe, I decided to walk out to the gate to see who the early morning angry bird was.
I peeped through the pigeonhole in the gate. There she was. Elizabeth! I was surprised that she showed up at my father’s house that early without even calling me first. I opened the gate to let her in but was immediately annoyed when she stormed in and turned like a whirlwind at me. “Aunty! I came to get my money!” “Which money?!” I replied back with all the anger in me that I could have slammed the gate on her brain. My dad was yelling from the balcony, asking what was going on, but I assured him that I had it under control. I questioned Elizabeth about showing up so early and banging on the gate, but she had no response. No response! I felt disrespected and wondered why she would act that way for no apparent reason. What had she been drinking in the two days after we’d just met? Everything was going through my head. I didn’t want to cause a scene or further upset my father who was waiting for answers, so I ushered her in.
I went on to engage Elizabeth. During our conversation, I asked Elizabeth if there was any time I said I would not commit to our agreement. She said no. I reminded her that we had only met 48 hours ago. Still, no response. So, I opened her records and agreement. When we went over it, we discovered that Elizabeth had been dishonest in her work with me. She had only worked for 10 days out of the 22 weekdays she was supposed to work and had even retired without telling me. There was one day when she didn’t show up for work, and I later found out that she had taken some leftover food from the eatery home, left it unrefrigerated overnight, and returned the next day to resell it without heating it. Screams in *African disbelief* I had not been unkind to her, nor changed our agreement, or even disciplined her for her mistakes. My bad. But what gives? How did she become a Lion in 48 hours?
In the end, I had to dismiss Elizabeth. I was mad about the situation. That day, lessons were learnt. When my dad and brother summoned me, I had an earful. My dad reminded me that hiring someone like Elizabeth could ruin my reputation and my business brand.
Another two days later after that incident in my home, I was still shaken when I walked into Wednesday church service and was approached by Elizabeth’s referee. He was talking so fast and furiously. I was struggling to understand him when he started yelling. “You are cheating Elizabeth!”. He accused me of not wanting to pay Elizabeth but wanted to hand over my business to her. I was confused. He continued to make a scene in church. Yes, in church. I calmly asked him what Elizabeth had told him was our agreement. He replied. I then asked him what the date was, but he yelled that he didn’t care and that I had to pay her. This was now five days to the end of the month. What started as an argument escalated into raised voices with full-blown confrontation, in church. Another lady tried to intervene and calm him down, because I do not know if he also wanted to fight too.
That day, I could barely concentrate during the church service. I went home feeling broken. Such humiliation should never have happened. Thoughts ran through my head. Elizabeth was the girl I was just about to trust with my business – my very hard work of one year. My family, especially my dad, had welcomed Elizabeth into our home. Was she not any better than Judas, who shared a meal with Jesus and then betrayed him? The incident was an eye-opener, and I knew I had to do the needful.
At first, I struggled with the promise I made to Elizabeth for her birthday. My flesh was screaming in my hearing: “Give her what she deserves and bounce her!!” But my spirit would softly remind me: “What will Jesus do?” Yes, I was rightfully mad, and the voices in my head would not stop. I wrestled with everything in me until two days to the month end. Then, I went to the ATM and withdrew some cash. My flesh was madder and thought I was cheating myself by choosing an “ungrateful girl”, who had only worked for 10 days and even stopped at the time of this razzmatazz. But I listened to my Spirit. It was a hard listen.
Later, I called Elizabeth to meet me at the business venue. She came, and then, I handed over her salary to her. She smiled, but I wasn’t. I even asked her to count the money right before me to ensure that I had given her the full amount. After she verified the money, I pulled out the extra cash, but my elbow pulled back. That calm voice took over immediately. “For your birthday”. I whispered almost in tears. She took the extra cash from my hand and smiled again. I looked away because I wasn’t still smiling. “Thank you, Aunty”. She mumbled. Then turned to leave. After taking a few steps forward, Elizabeth turned and was walking back to me. My heart wondered: “What again?”. “Aunty, Aunty… please give me money for transport” Whooooosssshhhh! 😱
I felt a sharp cut on my tongue that had a taste of fire and brimstone, wanting to curse her with every spit of blood from it. But the Holy Spirit held my tongue. “Take out from your salary, and I also gave you extra for your birthday, so you have enough”. I calmly replied. She nodded, thanked me again and hopped into the tricycle she came in. I guess this is where I pause the story and write, “INTERMISSION.”
Sigh. I couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened. I didn’t know how to feel. My heart is usually kind. Never did I see that coming. Well, after going through the five stages of grief, I agreed with myself that God had allowed that to happen to me for a good reason. It was a valuable lesson. But, the story is not over yet.
After days of reflecting, it became clear that I was actually not sure of returning to my hometown to continue the catering business. It was also too late to hire someone new, and maybe my decision to hand over my business to Elizabeth was hasty. So, I decided to sell off some of the items. I found a lady who indicated interest in purchasing the show glass. We agreed on a time for her to pick it up, and I informed the the people at the site that she was coming to pick it. They all knew about the agreement, and deal was sealed.
The day for me to relocate was drawing closer, so I was busying away with all the last-minute packing. On one of those days, I attended church. I was still mad at Elizabeth’s referee for how he harassed me the other day. So, I did everything to ignore him, making sure that he did not get in my way. I was happily going about the Lord’s work. I am sure the Lord marvelled. A few times, our eyes met. While his was guilty, mine was stern – ‘Stay away from me!’ You know how you are so angry that you talk to everyone but that one person 😂. When I was leaving the church, I heard someone whisper my name. 😏. The same “he” that I wasn’t going to talk to was the one calling me?! 🙄
“I am so sorry for all I said to you. She told me you gave her the money. I am sorry…” Yen yen yen! I was still mad and hurt that I could have said he should eat his apologies for his dinner. 🙄 But I mouthed something I remember to be: “It’s fine”.
“It’s fine ke!” My flesh bloated at me. “It is not fine! He treated you badly! He hurt you! He is selfish! He is wicked! He embarrassed you! Yada, yoda, yoda, yada, yoda…” my flesh kept raging war rants in my head. But my Spirit won, I think. Now, fast forward to the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. I promise I am not crying…
Two weeks after I arrived at the state where I was deployed for NYS camping, I received a call from the lady I had made the show glass deal with. So, for context, the deal was N10,000 for the show glass and she had already made the payment into my account. This day when I picked up her call, her tone was sad. She told me that she was at the site to collect the show glass, but didn’t find it there as I had promised. She also said that the people at the site told her that I had come to pick it up. She thought I played a fast one on her – collected money from her, then resold the show glass to someone else. I could NEVER. It was not even about how she thought I had scammed her, but that my show glass of N13,000 at the time was missing! I assured her that I had nothing to do with it and promised to investigate the matter.
I didn’t want to jump into any conclusions. Everyone at the site always had my back, and so they could not have fabricated a story against me. Even though I was far away from home, they’d promised to lookout for me. I trusted them. So, I sat with my thoughts first, then went on to call everyone I knew at the site. After all my investigations, I was told that Elizabeth showed up at my eatery, used a device to break open the chains that had everything locked and bound, and then took every single thing including the tables, chairs, and even the show glass. INTERMISSION.
Wait… breathe. Take a deep breath. I know that at this point you want to punch Elizabeth into hell and let her burn away. LOL. Breathe. Yes, it can be triggering. And yes, it still hurts sometimes when I remember it. But, you see, human nature is always at war with the spirit man, making the scriptures seem hard for believers to see as their reality. Paul wrote that we owe no man nothing but love, and that is my daily confession even though my flesh sometimes struggles with it. We love not because people deserve it or because they will reciprocate, but because we are commanded to. It now makes sense when Paul wrote that we are foolish for the sake of Christ. Sadly, many people have crawled into the shell of not helping people again. People like Elizabeth, who by ingratitude, entitlement, and taking their helpers for granted, have pushed kind hearts between love and losses, leading them to hide behind hurt walls.
As for Elizabeth, I tried my best to contact her. Initially, she would pick up my calls, and then promise to return the items she stole. I kept following up on this matter for about 6 months. She stopped taking my calls. The last time we spoke on the phone, she said: “I can’t hear you, the network is breaking…” and then hung up. I did everything to track her down, but I didn’t even know her address. When I visited my hometown, her referee was no longer attending our church. She stole my hard work in one day, including the items my dad gifted to me for the eatery. I had to return the N10,000 to the lady who bought the show glass. And that was it.
This is my story – between all my love and losses. By the way, her name was actually Elizabeth, not fictionally.Read More