As Ciara was walking home one summer night, hot tears poured down her face. Tired from work and deeply lonely, she just couldn’t help crying. Heavy sobs were interrupted by long intakes of breath. The crying stopped when she was too exhausted to continue. It’s just a part-time job,she said to herself. It just seems to be too difficult, I’m not used to working… My parents did everything for me, it’s time to learn how to take care of myself.That evening she didn’t have enough strength to brush her teeth or remove her makeup. The moment Ciara entered the bedroom she fell onto the bed, where she slept until morning.
The whole truth of her “part-time job” was that she had no time to recover or rest; she’d been working without a single day off for 38 days! Known as willing to help and take a shift for those who couldn’t, she was depriving herself of precious time spent in silence, alone or thinking about anything but work. Ciara left home at 19 because, as she used to say, she “didn’t want to be a burden on her parents and she wanted to take responsibility for herself”. She started to work as a waitress in a restaurant, from where she went on to a small café.
For the first few months everything went well. The job was just perfect for her lively personality, and she enjoyed working with the people she served. Then, however, she found herself unable to say no to any request that she take an extra shift in place of a colleague. As a part-time worker, she earned according to the number of hours she worked, so why not? The problem arose when she found herself thinking about taking her life because it consisted of just work and sleep…
Twelve-hour shifts were followed by 8-hour and 6-hour ones, so filling her “days off”. And she couldn’t stop it. She struggled to imagine a day without going to work, and when she did, the thought frightened her!
“If this is all there is to life, what reason do I have to go on?”Ciara asked herself hopelessly. “I don’t feel valuable when I don’t work, but the very idea of going to my café makes me anxious!”
When she woke up early the following morning, Ciara felt tired and deeply anxious. The shift lasted ages for her that day, and when it ended at last, she went to a nearby church to pray.
“I can’t go on… I simply can’t, Lord… Forgive me for not fulfilling the purpose You have for me… Please take my life and give it to somebody who will value it, enjoy it, live it, not just go through it as I do… Please…”
Ciara closed her eyes and remained still. Suddenly, she felt someone’s hand on her shoulder. She turned her head to see a young woman about her age with eyes full of light and joy.
“I saw you entering the church and you seemed worried,” the woman told Ciara. “Do you need some help?“
“I don’t think so, thank you,” answered Ciara, shocked by the fact that someone was showing an interest in her.
“I won’t press you, then. But I would like to invite you to one of our sessions. I think the company of supportive people would do you good. It’s tomorrow at 6pm.”
The girl gave Ciara a last, supportive smile and a gentle pat, then knelt down in front of her.
“Is this Your answer, Father?”Ciara asked inwardly.
That night she couldn’t sleep. The girl from the church and her invitation made Ciara think, and she still fought with herself. They might help me… but how? They won’t take my shift, they won’t pay my bills, they won’t…. but in the end, Ciara decided to give it a chance and go.
After the shift she was shaking slightly, as she didn’t know what to expect.
“Will they look at me as if I’m strange? As if I don’t belong there? If they do, how will
I behave?” But to her surprise nobody stared at her when she entered a spacious room full of people chatting on different topics.
“Yes, I watched it yesterday, it was really cool! But pretty long, it lasted over two hours!”
“What a waste of time, watching a film for two hours!” Ciara whispered to herself. “How could they allow themselves such comfort? Don’t they have to work?”
“Welcome, dear! I hoped you’d come. Please sit down, the speaker is about to start!” said a voice from behind Ciara. When she turned her head, she saw the girl from yesterday.
“Hi… and thank you,” said Ciara with a shy smile. About ten minutes later, a speaker really did start to talk. From that moment on Ciara couldn’t stop crying, but this time with relief and the assurance that she was loved and valued, and that her life was precious, not because of what she did but because of who she was….
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion for the child she bore? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” ……
“Since you are precious and honoured in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life.” These words fell on her soul as rain on parched ground.
As she fell asleep that night, she felt herself to be held God’s arms, and she knew that all her problems were going to be solved.
She started to attend this group of people on a regular basis, and step by step she found friends who were able to help her cope with her sense of an unfulfilled life, as they had gone through it themselves. She started to work less and still she had enough money to live a proper life. Never again did she feel stressed about having a day off, and if even if she had done, now she had friends she could speak with, friends who reminded her that her value lay in who she was – a precious, wanted creature – not in what she did and achieved.
Her change was neither immediate nor quick, but it was lasting. Day by day she learnt to find a balance and lead a life of purpose. Her darkness even became a blessing when she started to teach others trapped in work addiction, self-hatred and anxiety.
She never forgot to give thanks for those who stood by her when her life was at its lowest point. Her whole life long she acknowledged that a show of interest in the difficulties of others may lead to a complete turnaround in their attitude to life.