When Laura opted to work extra hours to make ends meet, her boss handed her a bonus and a promotion, thanks to an unexpected group of visitors.
Laura Maxwell was always running. Running behind her three kids to get ready for school. Running to take out the trash just while the garbage truck was just leaving. And running to the bus stop to hop on to the bus just in time. Then at the Rainbow Children’s hospital, she was running from ward to ward, doctor to doctor, with file after file.
You would think that being an experienced nurse would warrant some extra perks during lunchtime, at least. But Laura didn’t even remember the last time she had her lunch sitting down.
“Slow down, Laura, or your feet might catch fire!” her mother kept saying. Laura’s mother, Denise, was the most recent addition to the household. Laura had no option but to bring her in from the village after Denise had yet another fall, injuring her knee again.
Laura had been on her toes since the day her husband Shane passed away. It had been five months since the morning she last kissed his face before leaving for work and since he pulled her back one last time into his warm, bear-like embrace before letting her go. Now, for some reason, Laura was always cold.
She would have worked herself to the point of collapse if she didn’t have the kids and her mother to look after. In this constant sense of rush and urgency that was Laura’s life, there were moments when her three children and ailing mom would slow her down and remind her that she was human.
Arthur, Haley, and Rachel were still toddlers. But they had their ways of knowing if their mama had a good day at work – she would always bring donuts from the cafeteria. Lately, those occasions had become rare, and the children were sad about both the lack of donuts and the stressed life of their mother.
But one day, when the power was out, and Laura hadn’t come home even after 8 p.m., the children got really worried. Grandma Denise was fast asleep in her room, as was evident from the loud rhythmic snoring.
“Should we wake Grandma?” Three-year-old Rachel sounded worried as she asked.
“No, no, we should call Mom’s friend at work,” five-year-old Haley said, searching through the contacts on the cell phone meant for home.
The three children huddled around the phone as they heard the dial tone. But after three rings, the phone went blank. “Oh no! The battery is dead!” Rachel jumped with anxiety. “What do we do now?”
“We wait. Don’t worry; Mom will be here soon,” Arthur, the eldest one, tried to reassure his siblings. “Why don’t we all get inside and find some more candles in the meantime?”
After what seemed like forever, Laura walked through the door with heavy footsteps. She dropped her bag on the floor with a thud and saw it had woken up Arthur, who was sleeping on the couch.
“Shh! Everybody else is asleep inside.” Arthur got up and walked to his mother.
“Here, let me help you with that bag. What happened, Mom? Why did you get so late?”
“I’m so sorry, kiddo. This is how it’s going to be for a while now. You know how I was looking for a second job to pay for Grandma’s surgery?”
Arthur had brought her a glass of water. “Yeah, Mom. Did you find one?”
“No, even better. I asked my boss Abby Barker for extra work at the hospital. I had to push her a bit.” Laura took a sip to calm her dry throat. “But she finally agreed to let me work four extra hours on weekdays. And I get that much extra pay! Isn’t that great news?”
Arthur knew that was not really great news. He knew his mother would only speak good things and leave out the bad. Just like she left out how much more overworked she would end up being.
As he set a plate of dinner for his mother, Arthur thought to himself, ‘This means that Mom will be even more exhausted. She will spend even less time with Grandma and us. She will have no free time at all!’
He decided he would share his opinion while his mother ate. Just as he brought the plate of food out to the hall, he found that Laura had already fallen asleep on the couch.
Looking at her lying there, tired and exhausted, Arthur made a decision.
The following day was Thursday, which was the one day when Laura did not have to go to work. ‘This is perfect,’ Arthur thought to himself.
“Mom, I’m taking Haley and Rachel to the park. You sleep in and rest. I’ll wake you up when we’re back in an hour.”
“Thanks, sweetie,” Laura kissed Arthur softly and went right back to sleep.
Arthur briefly stopped by Denise’s room. “Go, kiddo, you got this. I’ll hold down the fort.”
Minutes later, Arthur and his siblings were on the bus, traveling to Laura’s office with a mission. ‘Mission: Free Mommy,’ they called it.
“We would like to speak to Mrs. Abby Barker, please,” Haley said, trying to sound as grown-up as she could.
“And we won’t take no for an answer!” Rachel jumped in, adding an unnecessary note of aggression.
The receptionist made a brief nervous phone call and guided the trio to an office.
“Hello, I’m Mrs. Abby Barker. How can I help you darlings today?”
The kids were taken aback by the niceness in Mrs. Barker’s voice. They had imagined her to be an evil woman who was heartless and demanding towards the poor employees. Laura never indicated it, but Arthur had read some of the messages from other employees on the online group chat.
“She’s truly heartless.”
“How can she ask us to pull a double shift again?”
“She clearly has her favorites and treats the rest of us like trash.”
But when the woman was face-to-face with him, Arthur could see that she was almost inspiring.
She spoke with a stern but courteous tone. She asked one of the employees about their daughter’s health. Everything in her office was neatly organized, and the kids were immediately offered a plate of donuts.
“Why have you been overworking our mother?” Rachel asked with the same aggression that had terrorized the receptionist.
Mrs. Barker was taken aback for a moment. Arthur stepped in and explained why they were there. “Could you do something, please?” Arthur asked in the end.
“Can you please pay Mom more money for free?” Haley asked sweetly.
Mrs. Barker was speechless as she imagined what Laura’s life must have been like. She never knew that the quiet, kind nurse was going through an avalanche in her personal life.
“My darlings, I am so sorry. I had no idea your mother was struggling like this! I do see her every day, and even though I tried to talk to her a few times, Laura just went quiet after your father passed away. I should have tried harder to open her up. I’m so sorry you children had to go through all this.”
“That’s alright,” Arthur replied, understanding that Mrs. Barker was truly blindsided.
It made sense that his mother hadn’t told anyone what she was going through. That’s just how she was!
The receptionist walked in, and Mrs. Barker got called away for an emergency.
“Thank you for coming, children,” Mrs. Barker said before rushing out.
The children were left looking at each other’s faces, wondering whether the meeting was successful.
The following day, Laura was immediately summoned to Mrs. Barker’s office. Generally, when one was asked to meet with her first thing in the morning, it wasn’t going to be good.
But the truth was far from what Laura had expected. She sat in awkward silence and shock as Mrs. Barker narrated the whole incident with her children. She looked angry.
“I’m angry. I didn’t want to say anything in front of the kids. But you have let me down, Laura.”
‘That’s it, I’m losing my job,’ Laura thought as she began to plead.
“I’m angry that you didn’t tell me any of that. I’m angry that I had to hear about your struggle from your incredible little children. Don’t you consider me a human being, let alone a friend? Were you ashamed to share your plight or ask for help?”
Mrs. Barker’s questions were hitting hard.
“Have I made myself arrogant or unapproachable? Because then, I have failed you.”
“No, you haven’t —” Laura tried to cut in.
“— And I’m sorry about that.” Mrs. Barker finally calmed down as she uttered those words. “You have been an incredible asset to this hospital. A mentor to many. And I want you to have this.”
Saying this, Mrs. Barker handed Laura two envelopes.
The first one contained a colorful pamphlet detailing a vacation booking. “You are taking ten days off and traveling with your children to Paris. Everything, including the tickets, is paid for.”
Laura didn’t know how to respond to her boss’ unexpected kind gesture.
“Well, go on. Open the second envelope.”
Laura braced herself and did exactly that. It was a lengthy official document with several pages of content.
Laura leaned in and read through it carefully. And when she realized what it was, she froze in disbelief.
“This is a $150,000 bonus for the last three years combined, thanks to three little visitors who recently walked into my office and told me everything.
“When you return from your vacation, there’s another stack of papers for you to sign – I’m promoting you to Head Nurse. Don’t forget to bring a pen,” Mrs. Barker said.
Laura’s feet went numb, and it felt like for the first time in several months, she sat down.
What can we learn from this story?
Whenever you are in need of help, do not hesitate to ask for it. When Laura asked to work overtime, she did not tell her boos about what she was struggling with. Had she discussed it earlier, she could have reduced a lot of her and the children’s stress.
Children have a way of opening hearts with their unfiltered innocence. The eldest of Laura’s three children was only six, but he cared for his mother like no one else did. Things wouldn’t have changed for Laura and the family if it wasn’t for his innocent intervention.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.