Moderated by Rachel Stein | rachels83@gmail.com

Shared Spirit is a forum in which readers share their problems. Acting as mediator, I pose the issues to my readers, then print responses with helpful solutions.

Dilemma: My best friend offered me a job as a life coach with her agency. Since my husband lost his job, accepting this position would be a miracle for us. Yet I’m nervous; will my working for her destroy our friendship?

Dear Worried,

Take it from me: Bite the bullet and accept your friend’s magnanimous offer. Your concerns are valid and understandable, so allow me to explain my opinion.

I was once in your predicament. Fresh out of college, I actively pursued leads in my chosen career of special education. Bright-eyed and filled with rosy dreams, I interviewed and filled out numerous applications, already imagining how I would change lives by reaching out to educationally challenged children. But my dreams began to dissipate as door after door was slammed in my face.

“Come back after you have experience,” I was told by principals with shuttered eyes and plastic smiles. “And good luck to you.”

Yeah. Well.

A few weeks later, my dear friend Debbie and I were talking. I launched into my difficult situation, and Debbie responded with an unexpected offer.

“You know I run a play group in my home during the day, right? I’ve been looking desperately for an assistant. How about …”

An assistant in a play group? Conflicting emotions roiled within me as I pondered the situation. Is that why I slaved and lost sleep until I earned my master’s? On the other hand, at least it would put money in my pocket. And it certainly would be only a temporary step until I could find a real job. As an added advantage, I knew I would enjoy working with my good friend. So really, I asked myself, what could possibly go wrong?

A lot. The salary she offered was a pittance. I wound up doing much of the work she didn’t want to do. My duties included cutting in preparation for projects, staying late when a parent was delayed, cleaning up — yep, you got it: I got stuck with the dirty work.

My resentment bubbled from a simmer to a rapid boil and finally came to a head one day when Debbie was under the weather. From morning until dismissal, I shouldered the entire brunt of responsibilities on my own. Glancing at my paycheck that week, I expected to see remuneration for my additional efforts, yet my check showed the same amount as usual. This has to be a mistake, I fumed, advancing toward Debbie with fire in my eyes.

“You thought I would give you more?” she chuckled. “Sweetie, if I did that, there would be nothing left for me. I wish I could, but, well.”

I gaped, feeling my eyes widen in disbelief as she threw up her hands helplessly. I knew she was making more than double the amount she paid me. I almost walked out on her right then and there. But I inhaled deeply and took myself in hand.

Never do anything in the heat of the moment, I cautioned myself. Allow yourself some time to think and figure out the best way to handle this. There’s more than just a job at stake. She’s your good friend. Are you willing to throw your friendship away?

That evening I called Debbie.

“Can we talk?” I began.

“Sure,” Debbie agreed.

We met at Starbucks, and I explained my expectations and disappointment. Debbie listened and heard me out, and we wound up creating an effective compromise. My salary would be slightly increased, especially on days when I was given increased responsibility. And she agreed to pitch in with some of the work that was getting my goat, including cleaning up together at the end of each day.

Long after our lattes were finished, I felt a warm, soothing feeling lapping at the shores of my soul. It was comforting that Debbie and I had been able to work out our differences, come to a meeting of the minds and retain our friendship. In some ways, we even grew closer.

So go ahead and accept Lori’s proposition. Learn from my experience and sit down with her before you begin. Clarify the job description and salary in writing. And be committed to open communication and preserving your friendship, no matter what.

Wishing you the best of luck in your new job!

Suzanne Rubin, special education teacher and certified life coach