Don’t End The Story Too Soon

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” from Hamlet, by William Shakespeare

I was in my twenties. Poor. Not poor like many in their twenties today…. living independently on my paltry salary and poor enough that I would get my paycheck and would have about $15 for incidentals after bills were paid. That needed to last two weeks. Most of my friends were just as poor as me….we bonded over free and cheap food and entertainment. It was one of the best times of my life. We lived in crappy apartments or houses, with one or more roommates, and would pass possessions around as we each had need of them. We’d go through each other’s Goodwill bags. The 80s version of communal living. Some of my very best friends came into my life during that time. It was an important time of life for me. I think many parents today do a disservice to their kids when they try to protect them and don’t allow them to experience those years. There are a lot of lessons to be learned when you “have not”…and a lot of character to build along the way.

I had a friend who needed money. $300. A fortune to me. Because of many hours of working overtime, I had built up an amount in my bank account just over that (maybe $325!) I didn’t hand it over quickly. It was precious and the first time I had a bit of a nest egg. But she said no one else would lend her the money. I had already determined I wanted to be generous in my life, so I did it. I lent her the money. I never asked what it was for. I believed her when she said the money would be paid back in two weeks.

You may know what’s coming. Two weeks came and she didn’t have the money. I don’t think I said anything at all. I just waited. Time continued to go by. No word. Occasional promises to repay, but they were never met. No plan was ever formulated for getting it back to me. No dollar a week, until it was done. She continued to live quite well. Better than me, in fact. Her own apartment (while I had to have a roommate to make ends meet), beautiful clothes. Yet I still considered her a friend. And I still thought she would pay me back.

When I began to realize the payment didn’t seem to be forthcoming, it really wasn’t the money that bothered me. It was how I didn’t seem to matter to her. I still was struggling. I had a car that was forever breaking down. It broke down once again and I needed the money to pay for repairs. I finally went to her and asked for it. The first time I had done it directly. She said she didn’t have it. She had just put down a down payment for a house. She didn’t seem to see a problem with that. It was what finally broke my heart and made me walk away. Had she continued to pursue the friendship, I am sure I would have relented. But she didn’t….and finally I didn’t. I realized she was out of my life. Or maybe I realized I was out of hers.

I admit I was bitter for a while. Not for a long while, but long enough to realize I didn’t like feeling that way. I finally had a heart to heart with God. Yeah, I needed to change. While I didn’t think that meant going back and trying to re-kindle the friendship, I had to give up the bitterness. And the mental hold on the money. I learned to replace the negative feelings with praying for her good when she came to mind. That helped. I also remembered that I really own nothing. I am lent it by God. Yes, I earned my way by working….but still, it can all be gone tomorrow. It won’t mean anything on the other side of heaven…though I can enjoy it today as a good gift. So I had to accept the money as gone and move on with a joyful heart. Usually I was successful.

I learned a lot about being a good steward of my money going forward. To give generously, but judiciously. Not to lend money to people with money problems (if you can’t handle what you have, more will usually not help.) Not to lend money when the person had no direct plan to pay it back, a strong worth ethic, or a history of financial responsibility. Not to lend money I couldn’t afford to never see again. Not to lend money with the expectation that those who borrow it will pay it back. Not to lend money to people who I want in my life in the future.

But wait, there’s more….fast forward to today. I seldom use my laptop, since my iPad is so easy to use, but I had it out and noticed some Facebook messages I had never seen before. Evidently there is a separate box apart from my Inbox. Evidently messages from people who are not your Facebook friends go there. Evidently you don’t see this box on your iPad. There was a message from this former friend from last October. She said she lost touch and over time forgot my last name. She saw something about the balloon festival in Statesville and the reporter’s last name was McKinney (not sure who that was…but interesting. Especially since I had nothing to do with ballooning when I knew her.) She said the name clicked. She found my Facebook account and sent this message. She wanted to pay back the $300. She asked for my address.

Yes, it was a shock. A good one. Will I get it back? I hope so. It’s not the money that matters the most to me….it’s the fact that she really didn’t forget. That she has made some effort to do it. That it stayed in some part of her brain for over 20 years and on some level she cares about it all.

The old quote from Hamlet says “neither a borrower or a lender be” and I think there is some wisdom in that. I think instead we should be givers. Scripture tells us to give hilariously….and I think I have mentioned in a past blog that I love that concept. We should give until we’re so overcome with laughter at our own outrageousness that we are gasping to breathe. But you know, even then I think we need to engage our mind. At least some of us do….those who are capable or led that way. Perhaps others should give just as they feel, but that has never seemed right for me. I think we need to plant in good soil. Pay attention to where the seed is going. We need to give certain people a hand up. But I think part of giving hilariously is not to be so concerned about what happens with it when it leaves our hand. To sometimes throw it in the air with abandon and see where it falls. There are lessons to be learned from watching the results, certainly. I have made bad decisions in the past and learned from them. But we can’t get too hung up on making these mistakes….we learn and carry on. And regardless, we don’t let bitterness in. It’s only money….much less valuable than peace of mind.

But there is one more thing. The most important point here, I think. Don’t end a story before its time. It may not be over yet. When we think we have it all figured out, God surprises us. I thought my friend didn’t care to remember, but somewhere deep in her heart she did. It’s difficult to track someone down after 20 years to pay an old debt. But she has. She showed me by her message that she remembered some if the good parts of our friendship…that she still had the memories. I’m glad. I don’t ever expect my friends to be perfect, but when I see them doing the right thing? I can’t help but be proud. Regardless of how long it takes. My heart is touched….and I am glad my version of the story wasn’t entirely correct. This version makes me smile….and cry.

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