I’m continuing our story of Fran and Jesus on the Job, and in this episode Fran is learning from Jesus that she can act in loving ways toward people, even when she doesn’t really like them. Fran’s challenge from Jesus is to get to know Joyce, an assistant in her department who is negative and lazy. He has suggested she first pray for Joyce every day, and then invite her to lunch.

It’s the next day, and Fran did pray for Joyce before she left home, and asked Jesus to help her see Joyce the way he sees her. As Fran arrives at the office, she looks for Joyce to invite her to lunch. She finds her arriving at her desk, late as usual. Joyce gives Fran a sour look.

“You got more changes to that proposal?” she says with irritation.

“No,” Fran replies with a chuckle, “I just wanted to know if you’re available for lunch, Joyce—my treat?”

The look on Joyce’s face is a mixture of surprise and suspicion. “What’s this all about?”

“Not about anything—just lunch,” Fran responds. Joyce agrees, reluctantly, and they set up a time.

After her morning meeting, Fran walks out to Joyce’s desk, and finds her talking on the phone to a friend. She hangs up, and they head next door to the coffee shop.

They sit down for lunch and Joyce looks at Fran nervously and says, “You’ve had me worried all morning. I figure you’re gonna chew me out about something.”

Fran looks in her eyes and, for the first time, sees the fear and loneliness there. She says, “No, Joyce, honestly, no hidden agenda here. I just realized on the way home yesterday that you and I have worked together for six months but I really don’t know you. I’ve found it helps to get to know the people you work with, and we have something in common. I’m a single mom, like you.”

Joyce is still a little suspicious, but she starts to relax. “Yeah, I know. It’s tough, isn’t it? How do you manage with two kids? I can barely make it with one.”

Fran replies, “Well, I guess you do what you have to do, but my kids are a little older. I remember the terrible two’s—your son is two, right? What’s his name?”

“Toby,” Joyce’s face lights up as she starts to talk about her son. “Yeah, he’s a handful, but he’s so cute.” She shows Fran a picture. “Wish I had more time with him. Who keeps your kids, Fran?”

“My mom keeps them after school. How about you?” Fran replies, as she gets out her kids’ latest school pictures to show Joyce.

“Day care center—very expensive. In fact, they’ve been threatening to refuse to keep Toby because I’m behind in paying them. My ex hasn’t paid any support in months,” Joyce pours out her story to Fran. “I don’t know what I’m going to do, Fran.” Tears start down her cheek, and she quickly tries to hide them.

Fran looks at Jesus. You’re right, Lord, this woman needs a friend. She’s not in my life by accident.