Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Offended and The Offender

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” – Proverbs 10:12 

There are times when we were left in our thoughts wondering,  “Why would she say such a thing to me?” or  “Who does he think he is to tell me what to do?” it could also be, “I never thought I would hear those words from her.”

There are also the things that people do that hurt us.  You maybe annoyed how you are treated inferior compared to others.  Or you may feel that you’re being judged with the way you do things, or the way you speak or dress...  or basically, you are criticized just the way you are.

Clearly, you are the one offended.

How about when you are in the opposite shoe?  You can’t sleep or can’t stop thinking about the thing you’ve said or done the other day because…

You told your new neighbor how messy their backyard is and gave them some do’s and don’ts instructions right there and then.  Or you made this impulsive reaction “I hope you’ll not so regret this…” to an excited friend who had just announced she is getting married soon.  Maybe, just maybe, you could’ve also made an overboard comment on how one should bring up his/her child or how one should chew his food in front of a crowd, a comment enough to embarrass him/her.

Could it be you have offended somebody?

The question holds, what you should do, or on the other side of the coin, what you could’ve done? 

Little offenses become big when it sank deep into ones heart.  When the offended thinks about how mean and conceited that other person is.  And while the offender does not know how to make up to his guilty conscience, he is trapped with paranoia and condemnation. 

I believe not all who offends really mean it that way.  It is usually out of concern or honesty that a comment is dropped.  It could also be out of ignorance, or the way a person always been when one does something offensive.  However as believers in Christ, we must be alert and conscious of what others may feel.  The Bible says, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other (Galatians 5:25-26)”.  Proverbs 17: 9 gives us a warning too “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats the matter separate close friends.”  If we had offended somebody and realized it, then it’s time to make amends of our attitude.  There must be an effort to change hearts and a willingness to compensate of the damage done.

There are also a number of situations that the offended quite reacts a little more than they should.  It could be because of an overly sensitive personality.  We should try to analyze scenarios first before we react.  Holding one’s response and thinking about it twice or thrice before we deal with it makes a lot of difference.

When it comes to being hurt, the Bible says a lot about it.  Colossians 3:13-14 tells us to “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  1 Thessalonians 5 reminds us as well to “… be patient with everyone.  Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.”

It is always easy to speak and get motivated with all these when you’re not in the picture.  Then again, putting into our hearts the love and grace that God gave us when we were sinners [not to mention the fact that time and again we fail Him] is more than enough to give love and understanding to other people especially at their weakest.    “If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:20-21)

The bottom line of the story is that, it does not really matter who is the Offended or the Offender.  It is how we heal these inevitable situations when self-control is our first aid.  It is how we grasp the idea of “brotherhood” despite disagreements and mistakes and ignorance and insensitivities.  “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:9-10).”  Unbelievable verses, aren’t they?  I will reiterate to stress what Paul wants us to do as brothers “Outdo one another in showing honor…” now that’s one great challenge!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chapter 1. Starbucks in Slow Motion (continuation...)

The hours went by.  I was actually out of my mind.  I don’t think I have given the best of my professional suggestions but it was his fault.  Forcing me to work on Friday night?  Some people have no consideration at all!  He was enthusiastic with all the plans that he laid on my table—and to convince him I was all ears, I have to say things like “Ooh!”, “Ah!” , “Yeah!”,  “Hmm…”,  “Huh?!”. 
Finally it came to an end.  “Thanks for your time.  I know it’s a Friday but still you managed to meet up with me.” Now I think this meeting was conspired.  “Let’s just set another appointment so we can discuss a more detailed planning, all right?”

“Ah!” Ooops!

“Ah--I mean, of course!” This time he reached for my hand to help me get on my feet.  He then shook my hand.  I turned my back and hurriedly worked my way to the glass door... like there's still hope for Transformers.  Then I heard Ric’s voice again.

“By the way Robin, on our next meeting I’ll have my new hired Advertising Associate meet you as well.”

I half-turned, “Yeah, thanks. Goodbye.”  In other words, whatever.

I checked my watch.  Great, it’s already past nine.   Maybe even Megatron is prepared to go home somewhere in the galaxy.   I called up Zeke right away so we could meet up midway somewhere.  He’s been waiting for almost four hours now!  Rats.  I’m so dead.

Now I feel guiltier introducing Zeke this way.  Actually, he is a very nice guy.  We’ve met in college and since then been hanging out once in a while.  We spend time in the most ordinary almost weird ways you could think of – walking around the mall with nothing to buy until the stores are closing, eating at McDonald’s and collecting happy meal toys, watching Anime series (we don’t care for replays) at my apartment with pizza takeaways, checking out thrifty, second-hand and other unknown bargain stores at the most crowded places in Manila, and we definitely love book stores, especially Book Sale and of course, Midnight Mall Sales (okay, I drag him to this one).  I can’t really tell what kind of relationship we have.  I don’t think it’s just friendship… or maybe that’s what I would want to think.   He is a gentleman, and also thoughtful.  Not to brag too much about him, but he is also smart.  He has a say about every topic I could imagine.  Sometimes I’m convinced I’m also really smart, you know, having someone to get along like Zeke. 

“Hey Zeke…?  Sorry!  Where are you?”  I said as soon as he answered my call.
“I’m sitting here right in front of Book Sale.”  He is calm.  This is bad.  And he is seated, which means he is already tired.  I hurriedly said, “Okay, be there in a minute.”

The problem is -- this is not the first time that Zeke has waited for me because I have to run for some urgent, unexpected and long meetings whenever we plan to do something after work.  I can’t just send him away, right?  We always meet up within the vicinity of my office, and his work is far from mine.  So telling him that our get together is off when he is already out there somewhere isn’t a good idea.  Plus, he refuses to leave just because I have to be a little late (which I often tell him, even I know that I would be so late)—Like now.

When I get to the meeting place, Zeke was slumped to a steel bench.  He looks so cool with the huge head phones stuck on his ears.  I approached him.  He looked up as I smiled weakly at him.  He smiled back wearily. 

“Sorry…” is all I can manage to say.  I sat down.  Think of something smooth to say, Robin.  But then I heard him saying, “You know, it would be easy for me, and easier for you, if you can just teach yourself to be a real professional…” 

What was he saying?  Okay, calm down.  I can’t be angry since I was the one late, right? 

“What do you mean?” my voice quivered a bit as I uttered the words.

“Robin, look at you.  Are there any other things you’ve been doing other than work?  If I have not been here, you will just go home and sleep.  Being a professional is working when you’re at work but eating when you got to eat and going home when it’s time to go home.”  He speaks slowly but then there are those emphases I can’t miss.  On a quick realization, I think he was emphasizing every word.  “You work while you’re eating, you work while you take your leisure time... if it's still called "leisure" for you... you work while you’re on the road going home… heck, you even work even while you sleep!”  

I would want to jump the gun and tell him how wrong he was.  But then again, I fear that there might be truth on what he was ranting about.  I actually got a feeling that everything he said was true.  So before reacting, I reviewed his arguments.

Argument #1:  Are there any other things I’ve been doing other than work?
Of course I do!  I watch movies whenever there are sponsored premiers and I attend parties hosted by TV Networks (not that I always wanted to, but it’s sort of a PR so that my clients will get better deals).  And I got a lot of things to do when Zeke is with me! We watch DVDs and Anime series and shop outfits for my work (You know in advertising, you can’t be caught wearing the same thing every time you meet with your client, well that's my personal principle.), we eat out and get around the mall.  Wait!  Do the things I do with Zeke count?  Because he was telling me that if he’s not here now, I would just go home and sleep… So what do I do when Zeke isn’t around?  Hmm… there’s got to be something!  I know I’m busy on weekends!  Oh yes!  I do the laundry, right?  I also change my sheets and curtains on weekends!  What else? I surf the net.  Yes sir!  I surf the net for what could be the latest trend.  Knowing what’s in and what’s out hint me of prospective clients I need to go after! I surf the net for ideas on the latest campaigns that we need to work out for my…  Oh no.  This is pathetic.  I’m just 25, and the most creative personal activity I do is to change my sheets and curtains?  
Argument #2:   C’mon.  Do I work all the time?  That is SO impossible!
And where did Zeke get this thing about how to be a REAL professional, anyway?
“I had a meeting with the Head of the Engineering in San Miguel today.  He gave us this principle about being professionals…” and then he goes on about how achieved this man is, both in his career and family.
Okay, so I eat my breakfast and lunch on my desk while I do some papers.
Well, I had some out of towns, right?  I went to Cebu last November for… for Advertising Congress.
Now I have to admit that I dream of my newspaper deadlines, too.

Seemed waking up from a nightmare I was on my feet to face Zeke once again.  From that reflection, all I could manage to say was “can we get something to eat?  Viet food, maybe?”   In a few seconds, he looked at me with those kind eyes.  He took my hand, and then we slowly walked the wide aisle of the mall.  People were everywhere and the sound of the arcade was deafening.  But at that moment, I felt good… with Zeke’s hand holding mine.  All these years, I never tried to define this feeling.  Neither did he.  We just go with it.

We ate and forgot about what was said before.  We talked about other things like the cool Quicksilver and Roxy surf shorts he saw at Surfworld (we don’t surf, but who cares?  We just like them).   There was also the new model of Blackberry we both wanted to buy but we can’t so he goes on to say that the latest of Sony Ericsson was quite good as well.  Every time I attempted to open a thing about some situations with my clients or in the office, he will playfully slap my hand.  We’ll both end up laughing crazily.

Zeke never missed a time to walk me to the bus stop.  Like a parent to a child, he always sees to it that I’m sitting properly in the bus before he leaves.  Climbing in to the bus, I waved goodbye to Zeke.  He smiled back and hand-signaled with thumb tapping the forefinger – meaning to text him when I get home.  

It’s going to be a long ride to Soldiers Hills. Usually it takes me an hour and a half.  I often wonder, maybe these buses have some sort of “magic trick” to knock out its passengers in the highway.   I myself am a victim.  Sometimes, I come to my senses in the middle of the trip and find myself worrying whether or not I missed my stop… that’s because I don’t really know the roads taken from the start. 

Okay, I’m coming clean!  It’s just so irresistible not to fall asleep in the bus, with all those little bumps, sudden breaks and swerving attacks—it feels like I’m a newly born child in the cradle of a mother!   

But tonight is different.  I got to be strong and matured.  There are a lot of things to think about my life.  Where am I going with this workaholic attitude?  I’m 25 and I got nothing best in me but my job, which I’m still doubtful despite of it all.  Oh I know I’m not that depressing.  Yes, I don’t have my own car yet but I have a collection of Zara, Mango, Juicy Couture, Topshop and more brands of clothing, bags, shoes and accessories—all those whether I got in a big time sale or e-bay.   But I know it’s not enough.  I got to move forward.  I don’t know where, but somewhere you know.  There’s got to be some growth in me -- a new hobby or an impressive set of mind.  Or boyfriend, maybe.  Boyfriend?  And why Zeke’s face pasted on my brain?  Uh-oh.  I’m feeling dizzy…

to be continued...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chapter 1. Starbucks in Slow Motion

September 10, 1998

What a day! Sophomore is definitely busier than freshman, all right. But it’s soooo much better! You see, something happened again today.  There he was… during our lunch break.  Naturally, I was looking at him, and then suddenly, he looked at me. His cute little eyes looking directly to mine! That’s the third time this week!  It was maybe 2 seconds that our eyes linger to each other… come to think of it… maybe it was 3 seconds… right! It was about 3 seconds of magical moment! How can Kim be so blind not to interpret these facts?  I keep on telling her but she seemed unsure.  Chris is going to date me some time.  He’s getting to it I know.  I just know!

I looked at the odds of not meeting this prickly client.  It was already 6 o’ clock in the eve and this is the nth time he wants to revise an ad layout for his upcoming campaign.  No way.  I don’t want to end my work day this way.  Kate announced free premiere tickets for tonight’s showing of the Transformers.  These are one of those little benefits we enjoy being in the advertising business – free movie tickets, parties, big time raffles, celebrity mingling, and other social events for the prominent people.  And as I was saying, it’s Transformers night tonight and this client is bugging me to the core of my bones.

“Hello?” I get sudden intensities when my phone starts to sing “Top of the World” by the Shonen Knife.  I used to like the song.  Now, I jump just hearing its intro.  I have to remind myself to change my ringtone before I start to hate it.

“Hello Ms. Robin?  I would just like to confirm your appointment with my boss at 6:30.” It’s Ems on the other line, Mr. Yu’s assistant.  

“Would there be any way we can move this?  I have… I have an emerg…”  I cleared my throat.  “I have an emergency to attend to.”  My voice fainting, I’m not really good at lying.

“I don’t know if that would be possible.  He’s been expecting to meet…”

“Oh, all right, I’ll be there.”  I cut the conversation.  I’m too tired to argue, as if I can argue with a client’s request.  The fact is, it is more appropriate to call it a “demand”, but I’d rather stick to calling it request, for it lessens the burden of helplessly giving in to what they want.

Starbucks was a few blocks from my office.   I was immediately settled to walk right through several buildings and intersections to get there.   Since it’s a Friday, taking a cab would mean harassing my heels.  There are gazillion of other people out there queuing up for taxi.  Besides, the ride may cost me more than a hundred pesos, doubling the usual fare because of traffic.  Whoever the mayor of Manila right now, should work this out (How could you expect me to know him?  Who reads the paper nowadays, anyway?).  Well, my watch says 10 minutes before the meet time.  I got to break the habit of always being late in these meetings.  Kenny is eyeing me right now…

“You’re still here…?”  He seriously looked up from his laptop (porno playing I bet!), then to his Tag watch.

“I’m going now! Bye!”  I grabbed my bag and laptop hurriedly.  I bumped onto Pam who is coming in from the restroom (where else?). 

“Not coming, mare?”  I realized the lipstick indicator of “getting out of here now” on her face.  Pam was one of my best friends in college, still she is.   We address each other “mare” for obvious reason that I am the godmother of one of her children.  She’s got three now actually.  Nevertheless, she still looks good -- not a trace of motherhood in her cool aura.

“I’ll try to catch up with you guys, got a meeting! Call you if I can make it!”  I hurriedly reached for the glass door when Pam got hold of my bag strap.  I froze.  “What the…?”

“You sure you want to go to your meeting again with those?”  pointing to my shabby slippers.  Like an increasing ringtone, her giggling alarmed me!  By the time I ran to my cube she was slammed to a chair with her hands on her stomach. 

I forgot to change on my shoes.  So what?  It was just twice or thrice… okay!  It’s the fourth time that I was caught on these this month.  But I love them!  They are my gears to avoid varicose veins.   Those heels are killing my feet.

I peeked from my cube.  Good.  Coast is clear.  Kenny is not around.  Time to take off and invade my client’s coffee pleasure.

I pant.  And pant more.  Yeah the office was near to this Starbucks when you’re in sneakers and carrying a lightweight load.  I feel some drops of sweat clinging on my forehead.     I wiped it off with the back of my hand and took one deep breath.  I quickly scan through the room.  Now, where is that guy… gray and black… gray and black…, client spotted!  As usual, He was wearing gray long sleeves and a pair of black trousers –no way could I make a mistake on this.   He was always on those colors!  I know it’s weird.  But I don’t care as long as he gives me business.  He has already started with his coffee.  That’s good.  That will be less a hundred for my out-of-pocket reimbursements. 

“Hi Ric!  How do you do?”  Wow.  My voice sounds really cheerful and energetic.   I’m starting to sound like Kenny.  Oh, no.

“Good.  Nice you could make it.  I thought for a moment you’ll let me down.”  Smiling but intently looking at me.  As if my skull is transparent and he sees my brain’s content.  I wish I wore a hat.

“Oh no… no, I wouldn’t do that to you!  I will cancel anything for you sir!”  Not because he is special, of course, but because this is my job.  And I love this job… because I need money.  “Now, would you like a cake to go with your coffee?”

Ric Yu is a son of a businessman who owns a number of fast food chains in major malls around the country.  He was young but smart.  I think he mentioned during one of our meetings that he will be his Dad’s business successor.  I always have to remember that.  So I can keep up with this special treatment.  Right now, we are discussing revisions for the launch ad of his newest branch at SM Mall in Pampanga.  We’ve been revising this forever.

“Ric I’m sorry but you have to make up your mind which concept you would want to use for this ad, and which text would you want to go with it.  If not, I would have to charge you for the revisions.”  Nobody stands to clients this way but me.  That’s why Kenny avoids arguing with me, too.
Ric looked up to me from the print ad layout.  I can feel the tension the moment I mentioned the word “charge”.   So I gave him my sweetest smile.  “I can help you to choose if you want.”
I guess I wooed him because just after a few minutes, he finally made up his mind.  He chose one concept layout and finalized the text of the ad with me. 

“So I’ll just send you this layout finalized and ready for print in two days.”  I stood up, and prepared to shake his hand.  “Thank you Sir!” Wow, this meeting was fast.  You’re good tonight, Robin!  I’m so sure I can still make it to the movie.

He reached out for my hand.  Then I realized that for a minute our hands linger on the air.  What the…? 

“Thanks Robin.  You saved me a lot of headaches.”  Well, because I have to catch ALL of it. 

“No problem sir.  Anything I can do to help you.”  I just want to get out of here fast!  And give me back my hand!!! 

“Why don’t you stay a little so we can talk about the marketing plan I prepared for next year?”  Then he pulled my hand down, forcing me to get seated.   “S-sure.”  Sure! SURE I WANT TO SMASH ALL THE COFFEE MUGS NOW!!!  I was supposed to be happy, right?  This is business opportunity.  But I can’t get my heart cheered up.

“I am obviously satisfied with the way things are going on with our companies’ partnership… and I just thought, why don’t you get started with my next year’s advertising campaign, anyway?”

“Yeah, that would be brilliant!”  But why does it have to be now?  When it is Friday and there’s a free premiere showing.   I know what you’re thinking—that it’s just a movie!  Yes, just a movie… the greatest movie on earth, not to mention that Zeke (he is important!) has been waiting for me outside the cinema for two hours now.  “You see Ric, as much as I am excited about this announcement, I think Kenny has to be here when we get to it.  I know you wouldn’t dare miss his crazy ideas!”  I winked.  Praying that I’ll convince him somehow. 

“Hmm, sounds right.”

I exclaimed “Yesss…” involuntarily under my breath.

“I’m sorry?” Ric’s eyebrows rose.

“Oh…  No. Nothing.” My cheeks feel hot.  I’m clutching my bags, anyway.  Ready to disappear in two seconds…

“Let’s discuss the details when Kenny is here.  But I would like to give you some overview on our strategies next year.  I want to hear your initial comments on it so that I can discuss with my group.”  I heard a business tone.  

 Now, I’m trapped.

to be continued...