There was this guy. He lived in an apartment complex. He moved out, owing quite a bit of rent money. Life got overwhelming, and he got in over his head.
It’s not an uncommon thing in today’s world, unfortunately. My sister, who managed that apartment complex, has seen this happen time and time again. Unfortunately, she has the eviction process down, after many attempts to try to find ways to help people avoid it.
You become a bit cynical about people after a while. You realize if they owe you money, you never see them again-or that money.
Or even worse, you do see them, and they act as though it never happened. They don’t look back.
They don’t see the impact they make on those who do not get the money they are due.
- They don’t realize that businesses go under every day because of the money others owe them.
- They don’t see the people they leave in their wake, struggling to pay their bills and feed their children because of these unpaid obligations.
- They don’t see the senior citizens who have to cut back on their lifestyle because funds are tight due to money they freely lent to their loved ones.
- They don’t see the deflated hearts and diminished hope of the friends and family they borrowed money from and never paid back.
- They don’t see the cynicism they breed in this world because of what they do.
Or maybe they do see it all, and figure misery loves company. Perhaps they don’t care and have hard hearts. But most likely, they keep the blinders on because ignorance is bliss.
But this story is a bit different. This man is different.
About ten years later he gave my sister a call at the apartment complex. He wanted to make sure he knew exactly how much money he owed her. She had to search a bit to find those records.
A few days later, he came into her office, his young sons in tow. He paid back every penny he owed. He made good on his commitment.
At the time he originally left, this guy’s life was spinning out of control. His girlfriend was pregnant, and he wasn’t sure he was ready to be a parent. He didn’t feel prepared for adulthood. He tried to leave it behind.
But at some point, he decided that was not the kind of man he wanted to be. He became a husband and a father. He committed to both roles.
He wanted to raise sons who were responsible, so he knew he had to show them responsibility. Part of that was righting his wrongs. He made a plan to do that.
He told my sister she was the last person he had to pay back. Ten years after he had moved out.
He didn’t pay the money back in secret or with a gigantic display of “how great am I for doing this?”
He did it humbly. Quietly. In-person. Apologetically. He was facing his past head-on.
And he did it in front of his sons.
That dad would have been loved and respected by his kids whether he paid his debts or not. Kids grade on a curve.
He could have hidden everything from them, told himself the money side of things in their lives had nothing to do with the kids. He could have forgotten that part of his life and moved on, vowing not to make the same mistakes.
But he knew his kids would sense the inconsistency. He didn’t want to teach them that. He wanted a be a good dad. He wanted to be a good man. He wanted to be someone trustworthy in all things.
I want to issue a challenge. Be like this guy.
- Be different.
- Be responsible.
- Be humble.
- Be thoughtful.
- Treat people with kindness and respect.
The greatest gift you can give your children the greatest gift you can give anyone is to be authentic.
- Live truth.
- Do what you say you’re going to do.
- Pay what you owe.
- Live within your means.
- Treat others well.
- Make a plan and fulfill your responsibilities; however long it takes.
That’s what is going to make a real impact on you and others. Be a gift to the world, not a perpetual debt.
It’s not about the money. Unless it is other people’s money that you are holding onto - or let slip from your fingers.
Shock a few people. Instead of paying it forward, maybe you first need to pay it backward. Who do you owe?
Forgiveness and time don’t relieve us of responsibility. Tell that story in how you live. Especially if children are watching. They notice everything, even if they appear they do not. Let's teach them well.
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