Above the green neon sign Eat With Friends a group of people met once every three months in the upper room of the restaurant. No one would see them come in or leave late at night but this arrangement worked well for those involved. Before Gabriel would stand and call the group to order at the beginning of each meeting, his presence as the leader was apparent by his commanding manner. With his agenda in hand, people quieted down to listen to him. Among the people in the room were leaders and new attendees. All together there were about six people. “Our first order of business is welcoming all of the newcomers. “ Welcome all; we have much to discuss, “said Gabe. He was a well- dressed, middle- aged man who had short, dark hair and was clean-shaven. He was perfectly groomed as he stepped out of his neat and beautifully decorated office in his tailored navy blue suit. He would take out his dark folder and place it in front of him on the table at every meeting. Then he would pick up the paper and place it back down on the folder for emphasis. “Now here is my list of charges: “Andrew, you will have to speak with a young woman in town. Her name is Jennifer. She has a big family problem to work out. Michael, you must meet with a youngster called Billy, who lives with his grandfather. You are charged to help him through a problem he has been dealing with. Loretta, you have been asked to speak with Franny. She is a local member of the Chamber of Commerce who has to make a business decision that may hurt some of her employees. All of you have two months to do as you are charged and make some kind of impact on these people to help them resolve their problems in some fashion. You know the rules. You cannot tell them who you are or why you are here and you cannot speak with the others in the meeting on the street. The only ones you can speak with are leaders from this group in secret.” All of the attendees left the meeting with high hopes. Gabriel always felt that things would go well in the next few weeks. He also knew that each newcomer did not want to meet with a leader to show weakness. Each wished to successfully reach his goal alone. Andrew The next morning, Andrew took time dressing and went out to meet with Jennifer. He realized that it should look like a chance meeting so that she would be more receptive to his suggestions. He decided to make a plan instead of just walking up to this young woman. So he found her address in the phone book and thought he would observe her living habits. He took time to see the every day workings of the way people lived. It was a comforting feeling to watch as people went on their routines, something that he missed. Andrew was a young man in his 20’s who wore jeans and a flannel shirt most of the time. His dark blond hair was a little straggly but combed. He liked being comfortable. Andrew took a few days watching Jennifer from afar and then planned a casual conversation with her. She worked as a waitress in a local diner. It was a clean place with chrome tables and chairs with red and white tablecloths. Andrew sat at the counter and asked for a cup of coffee. He made sure that Jennifer would be his waitress. Jennifer had long, dark hair kept in a ponytail. She was slim and petite and wore a black waitress uniform with a crisp white collar. Andrew asked,”Say, do you know where I can get a job around here?” Jennifer just shrugged her shoulders. Andrew continued. “Anyone need an odd job done?” Again Jennifer shook her head as if to say “No”. Andrew decided to take his time and not be too pushy. He would come back the next morning to have another conversation. Day after day he would come in at about the same time and order coffee from Jennifer and little by little she warmed up to him and began to talk about her family and her life. One day Andrew got up the nerve to ask her to go for a walk after her shift was over and Jennifer accepted. That was the afternoon that Jennifer told her about her wish to go to college but she had too many responsibilities. Andrew did not want to pry but he did ask, “What’s stopping you?” Jennifer said, “You wouldn’t understand, I have to get home.” She ran off in the direction of her home. Andrew decided to leave it alone until the next day. The next morning Andrew kept to his drill and ordered coffee. Jennifer was a little cool but smiled after awhile. Andrew asked if he could walk her home. “OK”, she said. Andrew waited patiently after having several cups of coffee. When they began to amble in the direction of Jennifer’s home, she motioned for Andrew to come in.Jennifer did not have to say much. Andrew saw an older man in a wheelchair. Jennifer introduced Andrew to her father, James. James nodded, and said,”Hello”. She told Andrew to sit while she prepared her Dad’s lunch. “Andrew, would you like a sandwich?” Andrew said,”Yes, thanks”. That is when he saw for himself; Jennifer had many responsibilities. Michael~~~~~~~~~~~~ Meanwhile, Michael set out to find Billy. He, too, looked up his name in the phone book to find his charge. Michael was not too sure how to approach the little boy. So, he decided to take some time and observe Billy walking home from school and playing with his friends. The routine made him a little homesick but he repressed these feelings, as he had a job to do. On the surface Billy looked like a well- adjusted boy. He looked happy through his big blue eyes and medium brown hair. Then one day Michael saw his grandfather scowl at him from the front door of their home. “Yes, Grandpa, I will be right there,” said Billy in a loud voice. Then Billy stopped what he was doing and ran into the house. Michael heard shouting from the inside of the building. Michael could easily tell that things were not going well for Billy. Michael thought then and there that he would have to approach Billy in school so that he did not bring more wrath down on him. That is exactly what he did. Michael usually wore a collared shirt and tailored pants as he moved around the town. His brown hair was kept short and tidy. He could fit into the school environment as an observer with permission from the administration. The first day at school he saw Billy. He smiled and said,”Hello”. Billy nodded,”Hi,” back. It was a start. Each day before class Michael spoke with Billy. Billy said in conversation,” I live with my grandpa. My parents died in an accident a few years ago.” Michael asked,”How is that going?” Billy seemed guarded and replied, “Fine”. Michael made it a point to speak to Billy’s teacher about him. The teacher was more forthcoming as she was given clearance to speak about him from the principal. Michael was writing a study on a few children for his thesis and Billy was one of the children chosen. Mrs. Dolan told Michael that Billy’s grandfather agreed to become his guardian after his parents died. All was going well until his wife died of cancer. After that the man was very unhappy and was drinking heavily. Billy took verbal abuse but not any physical abuse as far as the school community knew. Billy defended his grandfather whenever anything negative was mentioned. Mrs. Dolan said,” I suppose Billy loves him and feels he is all he has. Most children don’t want to be separated from family, even if they are not perfect.” Michael asked,” Is there anyone else in the family better suited to care for him?” Mrs. Dolan replied,” I have heard Billy refer to an aunt that he speaks to but I don’t know how close a relative she is. Billy is a lovely boy who wants to please. He usually does his work and from a teacher’s point of view he is a good student.” Michael said, “Thanks, Mrs. Dolan for your input. I will write my paper using Billy as a subject as well as a few others in you class. You have been most helpful.” Michael went back to his room that night pondering his charge. Should he speak to the grandfather? Or would that be too intrusive? He had to think about what to do.~Loretta~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ During the same time, Loretta found Franny’s company in the phone book. She looked up the company online and visited its website. Loretta was impressed by the fact that Franny had started the company by herself a few years ago and was doing well for many years until the downturn in the economy. Loretta thought that she could pose as a small town reporter and do an interview of Franny’s company. That would be the best introduction. Besides, it gave her comfort to feel as if she was engaged in work she was familiar with. Loretta dressed in slim, gray slacks and a light blue shirt. She wore a black blazer with gold jewelry for a polished look. Her blond hair was pulled back and she applied subtle make-up. She phoned the company for an interview and then made an appointment with Franny’s assistant. That seemed to go well, Loretta thought. She had her notebook and pens ready as she prepared questions. When Loretta arrived at the set time for the interview, she was ushered into Franny’s office. The dark, wood paneled room was neat and held an over-sized mahogany desk. Loretta was surprised to be looking at such a young business owner behind the desk. The owner looked to be in her 30’s with large, soft brown eyes and dark short hair. Franny nodded to Loretta, and motioned for her to sit while she was on the phone. When she was finished with the conversation, she said,” Hello, Loretta. I am happy to have you here but something has come up so could we limit the time for the interview?” Loretta had no choice but to agree. She quickly looked at her questions and circled the most important ones. When the questioning was over, Loretta asked,”If you don’t mind my asking, what is the problem? Franny was hesitant but seemed to want to divulge a part of the problem. “I am sick about the fact that I have to lay off most of my workers, ones who have been with me for years and who have been loyal and hard-working. I feel I have no other choice. When you came in I was on the phone with my accountant. By the way all of this information is off the record. Yes?” Loretta’s face drained of all color when she peered back at the owner. “Yes, of course. Isn’t there another way to solve this?” Franny said, “I can’t think of any.” Loretta thought a moment and replied, “Couldn’t everyone take a pay cut in order to keep all of the employees working until things improve? If you had a meeting and explained this to everyone, you could let him or her make the decision. What do ya think?” Franny looked puzzled. “You know, I never thought about it that way. I kept thinking that I would have to lay them off and I don’t want to. You may have a solution. It may be the lesser of two evils but they could decide.” Her worried look turned brighter. “Thank you Loretta. Have you ever been in business?” ‘Actually, no, but I have dealt with people.” “I think I may have a solution to my dilemma because of you.”Andrew Meanwhile, Andrew called the financial aid office of the local community college. He found out that Jennifer would qualify for aid, even if she took one course at a time. The online courses would give her flexibility with the time she had to attend classes. Andrew also called the town’s senior affairs office and found an aide who could help Jennifer with the care of her Dad. He couldn’t wait to present this to Jennifer. The next day, Andrew sat in his favorite seat at the coffee shop and waited for Jennifer to serve him. He joked to himself that he was floating away from so much coffee. He waited for a long time as there were many people having breakfast this particular morning. Finally, Jennifer served him coffee and he again asked if he could walk her home. She agreed. On their way home, Andrew took out a folder without saying anything about it. Jennifer said, “What’s that for?” Andrew replied, “It’s for you.” When they arrived at Jennifer’s house, Andrew handed the folder over to her. She sat down and looked at it immediately. Jennifer blurted, “For me, you did this for me?” She began to cry. Andrew kept saying, “Just read this, your dream can come true.” Jennifer sat reading the folder, in between sobs and smiles. She said, “Maybe you’re right, there is a way.”Michael Back at the elementary school, Michael spoke to the school social worker about Billy’s grandfather. She told him that Billy had an aunt, his mother’s sister, who was interested in taking him but Billy’s grandparents had wanted him. Now the grandfather was having a hard time taking care of him by himself. Michael asked if the aunt could be contacted if Billy’s grandfather agreed. The social worker thought it might work if the grandfather gave his consent. Michael and the social worker went to speak with him. Mr. Woods opened the door. “Mr. Woods, can we talk about Billy?” “I’m not sure, what da ya want?” “Can we come in?” The door opened slowly. Michael walked into a small but clean living room. The furniture was old and faded but comfortable. There was a small glass on the side table. Mr. Woods offered him a seat. “Mr. Woods, how are things going with your grandson Billy?” “Fine” “I am writing a paper on children his age and in his circumstances and found that he had another willing guardian. Your wife was alive when you took him in, right?” “Yes, it is not as easy for me now as before, but I haven’t spoken to my daughter in awhile, though, “said Mr. Woods. “Would you consider giving up being a guardian if your daughter and son-in-law were willing to take him?“Why, did Billy say anything?” “No, Mr. Woods,” said Michael “I have spoken to her and she might be willing to take Billy. She has a child of her own and thought that Billy might like being with another child as well as two parents,” said the social worker. Edith wants to come and speak with you and Billy about this. She wants you to see Billy as often as you would like. He could even stay in the same school.” “What do you think about this Mr. Woods?” “I don’t know. We would all have to think about the arrangement and talk to Billy but it might be good for every one”. At the end of the second month, the group met again at the same restaurant in the same upper room. No one saw them arrive or leave and this night everyone wore their best smiles. Gabe called the group to order and was about to ask for a report from the three charged with finding solutions to the problems presented. Instead when he spoke to each of the newcomers, he summarized what they had accomplished and shook their hands as they were called up to the podium. This meeting should have been bittersweet for the charges and the people involved but it was not. Gabe knew the outcomes before they came to pass and was happy that Andrew, Michael and Loretta were now moving on with the satisfaction gained from helping others. At the end of the night, Andrew, Michael and Loretta not only went their separate ways but they also earned the next level after their earthly graduation into the higher realm. All three of their charges missed them but were better off having known them. About a month after this meeting, Jennifer enrolled in her first college course online. Billy and his grandfather had many heart to heart talks and decided to meet with Edith. After a joyous reunion, all three of them came to a decision that worked for them. Billy would stay with his grandpa during the week but spend most weekends with his aunt’s family. Franny called a meeting with her employees and presented Loretta’s plan. After some discussion, a consensus was agreed upon and the company was saved along with most of the jobs. Even with a pay cut, the people who worked for Franny wanted to remain on the job. Gabriel took a hiatus before resuming his next schedule of charges. He always enjoyed meeting with his friends and loved ones in the heavenly realm, where time was not measured as it is on earth and where there are no problems to solve.End
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