Trespassing for a Job
OpinionShared Spirit

Trespassing for a Job

Summer employment opportunities appear from unlikely sources.

Rachel Stein

Toco Hills resident Rachel Stein writes about spirituality and, working with readers, tries to help community members deal with dilemmas.

Rachel Stein
Rachel Stein

“Dan, it’s great to see you!”

Surprised, I whirled around in the bustling airport terminal.

“Oh, hi, Chuck, how are you?” I responded, holding out my hand and smiling.

Chuck is my parents’ longtime friend, an upbeat kind of guy.

“It’s totally beshert that I ran into you,” Chuck said. “I’ve been looking for someone to help me in the store. How would you like a job?”

Wow, talk about miracles! On my way home from college for summer break, I wanted and needed a job. So many expenses come up, and I like to be independent and not run to Mom and Dad for every nickel and dime.

The impending job search was weighing on me, though: Sending out résumés and doing interviews can be tedious and time-consuming. Like manna from heaven, this fell into my lap. Awesome! Plus, I like Chuck, and working in a Judaica bookstore sounded like a great opportunity.

“That would be fantastic, Chuck,” I said. “What are the hours, and when do I start?”

Chuck laughed at my enthusiasm. “You can start today if you’re ready. I’ll familiarize you with the different sections of books so that when a customer needs help, you’ll be able to assist, and I’ll show you how to work the cash register. How does that sound?”

“Absolutely awesome,” I said. “I’ll see you a little later then.”

Whistling, I went to collect my luggage and greet my parents, eager to tell them of this development.

Working in Judaica Gems was everything I imagined it would be. The store had a tranquil atmosphere, and I enjoyed meeting people who wanted to deepen their Jewish knowledge. Some times were busier than others. During the interludes, I spent time devouring the books.

A week later, Shirley Burke, who runs Ta’am, a kosher meat restaurant a few doors down, walked into Judaica Gems.

“Dan, good to see you,” she said. “Chuck told me you’re working here, and I thought maybe you can help me.”

“What can I do for you, Mrs. Burke?” I asked.

“Well, I’m looking for some help in the restaurant, and I thought maybe you would know of someone who needs a job. Do you have a friend who might be available?”

I thought of Mark Banish, a good friend desperately seeking a summer job. He was having a hard time with his search, and I thought this could be his lucky break.

I jotted his name and number on a slip of paper and handed it to Mrs. Burke.

“Mark is a great worker and a terrific people person. You won’t find a better man for the job,” I said.

“Thank you, Dan,” Mrs. Burke said, flashing a smile. “I really appreciate your help.”

Sometimes Mark and I waved to each other as our paths crossed when we were coming to work or leaving for the day. It was a good feeling to know I had helped Mrs. Burke and my good friend — until everything imploded.

“Dan,” Chuck told me one day, “you’re a great worker, and I appreciate all of your efforts. But I don’t have good news for you.”

I waited for the ax to fall.

“Business has slowed down a lot during the last few weeks, and right now I simply can’t afford to keep you on. I feel terrible to do this to you, but I’m going to have to let you go. If anything changes, you’ll be the first one I call.”

“That’s it?” I said, trying to rein in my fury. “No notice or anything?”

“I’m really sorry,” Chuck said, and I saw contrition in his eyes. “Hopefully sales will pick up and I’ll be able to call you very soon.”

“Thanks,” I said curtly.

If I had started my job search when I got home, I probably would have found a suitable position. But with the summer half over, what am I supposed to do? No one will hire me for such a short time.

As despair was overtaking me, I had a brainstorm.

Striding into Ta’am, I greeted Mark and Mrs. Burke with a smile.

“Mrs. Burke, do you have a minute?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said, showing me into her office.

“I’m wondering if you have any openings for an additional worker,” I said. “Chuck’s business is down, and he basically can’t afford to have me on staff right now.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” Mrs. Burke said. “Well, I know you’re a great asset to any establishment. Chuck raved about you, and I heard compliments from his customers, too.”

She paused.

“If I decrease Mark’s hours, then I can slip you in for some time,” she said. “That’s the only thing I can offer you.”

Part of me is inclined to accept Mrs. Burke’s offer. After all, I was responsible for getting Mark the job. But there’s another part of me that feels guilty for even considering the idea, like I would be trespassing on someone else’s territory.

Is it fair that I agree to employment that will necessitate diminishing Mark’s hours?

I welcome your suggestions. Respond to by Monday, Aug. 28, to have your ideas published.

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