Bagging the Promotion

    “Bagging the Promotion,” New Era, June 2009, 20–22

    Bagging the Promotion

    I’d never been faced with the prospect of having to work on the Sabbath.

    “You’re going to have to work every other Sunday.” My stomach churned like it was suddenly filled with rocks. Up until now, I’d only had to work after school and on Saturdays as a bagger. I’d never been faced with working on Sundays.

    I had been so excited earlier in the day when my boss told me he was finally promoting me to checker; no more gathering carts in the icy, slushy grocery store parking lot. Nebraska winters were cold. But now that he was standing in front of the big calendar in the break room filling out my new work schedule, dread tightened my throat. I was speechless. He began putting my name in the squares for every other Sunday: “Amy, 12–6. Amy, 12–6.”

    In the past few months I’d asked my boss countless times if there was an opening for a checker yet, and I’d worked really hard to be the one chosen for the position now that the opening had come. The checkers got to stay in the warm store, their shoes stayed dry, and they made a lot more money than the baggers did.

    My boss put my name in a few weekday squares and said, “Congratulations, you’ve earned this! Enjoy your last day as a bagger,” then left to attend to other business. I walked out of the break room and back to my post at the end of the check-out counter and began putting bread, eggs, and apples in plastic bags as the checker sent them my way on the black conveyer belt. I knew what I should have done, but I hadn’t had the courage to do it. Never before had what I wanted been so at odds with what was right.

    I tried to ignore those rocks in my stomach, but they just got heavier as my shift went on. In Young Women we’d learned about keeping the Sabbath day holy plenty of times, and I’d always thought it was one of the easiest commandments—until now.

    Would it matter that much if I worked on Sundays? It was only every other Sunday. But my conscience tugged at me. Surely it’s okay to work on the Sabbath if your job requires it. I had to have a job.

    “You can find another job,” it piped up again. “Yeah, but for half the money,” I mumbled, trying to shut my conscience up once and for all. “What’s more important, keeping the Sabbath day holy, or money?” it replied. I rolled my eyes at my conscience, knowing it was right. I had a choice to make.

    My shift dragged on. Finally, out in the cold parking lot trying to free a grocery cart that had frozen into a snow bank, I wondered how I’d feel in the bright cozy store checking groceries on a Sunday. My heart sank at the thought, and I knew what I had to do.

    The rocks bumped around my insides as I went looking for my boss on my next break. “Choose the right. Choose the right,” I chanted to myself under my breath, trying to work up the courage to face him.

    I was terrified to talk to him about it. Would he be angry? I imagined him yelling, “You’ve bugged me for so long and now you’re turning down the promotion?!” Maybe he’d make fun of me: “Hey, I think I’ll start a religion that says you only have to work on Wednesdays!” Or even worse, maybe he’d say nothing and just look at me with annoyance and disgust.

    “I can’t take the promotion, Mr. Johnson,” I began, after I’d asked him if I could talk with him for a minute in the break room. “I can’t work on Sundays because of my beliefs.” I was talking more to my shoes than to him, but I looked up when he didn’t reply for a while. He was just staring at me thinking.

    Right then I realized that no matter what he was thinking, and no matter what he would say next, the rocks were gone. And was that my conscience … cheering? I felt better than I had all day as my boss stood there wondering what to do with me.

    He folded his arms and sighed, “All right, I won’t make you work on Sundays since it’s for church. The other checkers want Sundays off too, but they just want to party.”

    I thanked him as he crossed my name off the Sunday squares. He gave me a few more Saturday shifts instead, then left.

    I floated through the rest of my last day as a bagger.

    “And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; … therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you” (Mosiah 2:22).

    I was blessed that day because I chose to keep the fourth commandment. I’d had the immediate blessing of a lightened spirit and a clear conscience, and then the Lord softened my boss’s heart right when I needed it. Even if my boss had been a mean man and fired me on the spot, I know that the Lord would have blessed me in other ways. Maybe He would have helped me find a new job. I’ll never know. But I do know without a doubt that no matter what, He would have taken care of me because I “chose the right” that cold winter afternoon.

    Photo illustrations by Welden Andersen; illustrations by Scott Greer