Christmas from the Heart

This has been an especially emotional Christmas holiday for our family. In fact, this has been a very trying year for us and I know we are not alone. Families are struggling everywhere, while the news keeps telling us things are improving.

It’s been more than a week since I’ve posted any new articles on Reliable Answers — not because I didn’t have anything to share, but because I didn’t know where to start.

I now have a kick-off point, thanks to my new manager at Subway. Of course, I may not have a job long.

Let me explain…

My husband lost his high-paying techie job to an H1-B Visa holder three years ago and our lives had been on a steady spiral downward since that time. We finally left hard hit California last fall to seek greener pastures after employment opportunities started to bottom out.

Since leaving we have lived in Illinois, Maryland and several locations in Michigan. Our 14 year-old van lost reverse last year and today sits idle in our drive-way after being told last month that it’s too far gone to be repaired.

We were struggling with homelessness and now without transportation, things were looking pretty dismal.

This is where we found ourselves with Christmas fast approaching and a cute little red-headed seven-year-old with visions of play stations dancing in his head, giving us daily reminders that Santa would soon arrive.

Angels Among Us

Christmas angels took over and gave from their hearts. Our family was adopted by a local homeschool group who generously provided the Christmas we thought surely would pass us by. Our hearts were lifted in thanks and gratitude.

Even my niece and her husband caught the spirit bringing an early Christmas to my son. When my family, who had been struggling to make ends meet themselves, showed up at my door, I was both touched and amazed. I will never forget their kindness.

A dear friend even bought herself a new car and “sold” us her old one, with the knowledge that we had no way to pay for it. With tears in my eyes I thanked her for her faith in us and the opportunity her generosity afforded us. While the car was eight-years-old, to us, it is like a new mercedes shining in the driveway.

I didn’t waste any time getting out there to knock on doors. I just knew there was something out there for me. My employment search didn’t take long, our neighborhood Subway was hiring and I was excited to finally start working again.

It’s Ok — I had Subway

Things seemed to be really looking up, until yesterday. The store manager pulled me aside and informed me that I am prohibited from saying “Merry Christmas” to customers because I might offend someone. She informed me that it was permissible to say “happy holidays” only if someone first wished me a “happy holiday”.

Now, I would never intentionally offend someone. But now I am both offended and hurt. I knew Christmas had been turned into a commercial venture but I have no idea that the mere suggestion of Jesus had become taboo.

When I was growing up, there was one family in our town who didn’t exchange gifts for Christmas because they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. They just don’t believe in the commercial aspects of the holiday, which I must admit is an idea I have certainly entertained over the years.

However, in the thirty years I’ve been working, no one has ever said such a thing to me. I was hurt and on the verge of tears for the rest of the day and happy to leave when I was told I could go home an hour earlier than scheduled.

When I arrived home, I told my husband what had occurred and started making phone calls. My first call was to Subway’s main office. I wanted to know if this was a company-wide policy, and am relieved to have been informed it was not. I was told that a franchise owner has the right to implement their own policies and that this was a policy of the owner, yet I had not received any written notice informing me of this policy upon being hired.

I was especially confused because the manager knew when she hired me that I was a Christian. We had discussed the fact that I prefer not to work Sunday’s because I like to attend church and I now have a vehicle that will afford me the ability to attend.

Now I am left with a tough decision to make, after being informed by the Michigan Civil Rights Department that there is no law preventing an employer from creating such policies. Do I stay and tolerate my religion being trampled or do I seek employment elsewhere?

I thought the U.S. Constitution afforded citizens the freedom of religion, not the freedom from religion. Are Christians now required to check their faith at the door of their place of employment?

I found myself being afraid to speak to customers, something I have never stuggled with. I have been in customer service in one capacity or another since I began working in 1974 and those who know me can attest, I am rarely at a loss for words. Yet, I found myself hesitant to interact with store visitors, I was no longer having fun or care-free.

Christmas — a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Christ.

I have much to be thankful for this Christmas: for family and special friends who have gone out of their way to share the joy of Christmas from their hearts. How sad that many others will miss out on the real reason for this season, they will never know the joy that comes from sharing a heart-felt “Merry Christmas”.

Christmas joy is contagious, just try giving a gift from the heart and see if you don’t feel warm all over. Try wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” and not having a smile grace your lips. I don’t think it’s possible.

Today, I start a new job and I have renewed hope that the spirit of Christmas can still be found in the joy of the season and in the hearts of those we meet and serve. I have yet to decide if I will remain at Subway, but I have the feeling my days are numbered there. I have no desire to work in such a stifling atmosphere.

Subway customers concerned over their policy, may voice their opinion by calling (248) 628-3534 and letting the district office know how you feel about sharing Christmas joy.

I wish you all the joy that comes from serving our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ today and everyday. May the Lord Bless you and your family this Christmas Day.