Four weeks ago, a man I didn’t know well but had reason to trust based on our past relationship (he was a department head in the Servant Leadership Program where I earned my Master Degree), called and asked to borrow money he would repay a week later, when his bank loan came through… He would drive three hours early the next morning and retrieve the loan, if I could provide it.
Several years ago, it seems, he’d left the university and started up a coffee-roasting business that was initially successful but now, apparently, not so much. The need was urgent, he said, to pay for a piece of German equipment being delivered the next day or risk losing another several months of business…
The story was convoluted and poorly-crafted.
To say the call caught me off guard is an understatement. Why would he call me, a former student living three hours away and a person he barely knew? Why wouldn’t his bank, or family, or friends, or former co-workers help him? All the intuitive bells, whistles, and alarms went off, but in direct conflict to the understanding I’d had of this person as an honorable man devoted to his family, his Catholic faith, and the teachings of servant leadership. How could it not be true?
I said I needed to talk with my husband and I’d let him know the answer that evening.
I shared the story with Phillip that night, fully reviewing my doubts and my perception that this man was in very deep trouble. I knew vital parts of the story had been withheld and I hadn’t probed deeply enough, possibly out of the sense this would embarrass the man, but more honestly because it would have embarrassed me. I knew it was risky, and the sum a large one, for us. I shared my intuition that we shouldn’t lend the money, but then discounted it based on my past experience with the man. How could he possibly lie, steal, or cheat? That wasn’t who I knew him to be. Things like that don’t really happen, not to me. Too Arthur Miller; too over-the-top dramatic. Too preposterous.
Phillip said, “It sounds like he needs help. I don’t believe the ‘German equipment’ story, but maybe it’s for a house payment, something he needs to stay afloat. We have to be willing to lose this money.” We hoped that the man would use it wisely and repay it, as he promised.
A month later, as expected, the man’s check has bounced a few times. He indeed lied (lied in deed?), and willingly took our money with no chance of repayment. Money we’d earned through hard work and saved through small sacrifices, one after the next.
I know this man has a wife with compromised health, a daughter in middle school whom he adores, and a business that must be horribly broken. I know he is desperate. I also know that when he taught the principles of servant leadership, he believed in them, and I cannot fathom what dis-ease has created the discrepancy.
I do not understand why he chose an unethical solution to his problems, or what fears and miseries have caused him to fall so far and turn his life into a Greek tragedy.
The experience has angered and saddened me, of course; it has made me twist and turn with the struggle to forgive someone who entered our lives and betrayed us, and, of course, it has brought forward the many-headed monster of money and its meaning.
Phillip has moved on more positively than I, stuck as I am with the pain I’ve caused by dishonoring my intuition, by allowing the past to dictate my choices in the present. Knowing who someone was doesn’t really help me know who they are today. Why didn’t I work harder to protect our money and to learn more about this man’s troubles? He didn’t want to share and I was too shocked and embarrassed to invite the truth…
And I agonize over the idea that by saying “yes” to this man, I’ve encouraged him to fall even further; I granted a reprieve from the crash to the bottom he needs to hit at some point. I allowed him to dig more deeply into the self-loathing and denial that accompanies betrayal.
I pray for his spirit’s healing. I curse his weaknesses. I regret my generosity and question my motives.
So the journey circles round and I am invited to examine my experience. I have to ask questions about my motives and needs, about why this event has created such turmoil and sadness, and to discover ways to regain my peace and balance.
I have to ask myself why I allowed this person’s story and needs to unseat my balance to begin with, and to take precedence over the peace and welfare of my family. Who did I need to be to him?
It’s too soon to know. I’d love to be able to sum it all up and say something wise. (“Be careful what you believe to be too preposterous to happen to you: it will.”) I’d love to pack it up and store it in the attic of life lessons learned, once and for all time.
It ain’t that easy, however. “Never loan money to family or friends” isn’t always true. Very little is always true, and life doesn’t move along in neat little chapters with tidy beginnings and endings. Except for two breaths, life is always lived “in the middle of things.”
But I do know this: The answers to my questions, and who I become by waiting for them and listening deeply, may provide greater wealth than I lost.
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13 thoughts on “In Medias Res”
Lessons can be so hard to face at times. This was certainly a very unsettling one, crashing in and destroying trust and beliefs you held so close. I would not be where I am on my journey today if I didn’t take times such as this one to sit with the issue quietly until I was finally able to discover the good buried beneath it. It is always there and more often than not we end up better off than we were before. That answer will reveal itself when it is most needed. Until then, so sorry your goodness was soiled by this and your heart left questioning for the whys. I hope the lesson learned will ultimately provide with you both with something far richer and more valuable than the money you lost. Blessings to you Kitty. Stay the giving and trusting soul you are!
Blessings and love to you…..VK
P.S. Glad to see you too are enjoying the Baltimore Orioles. Their flashes of orange are so eye catching! I have them flitting about in my apple and pear trees that are in full bloom. Beautiful to watch…Enjoy them 🙂
Thanks, VK…yes, the orioles are a joy! Their songs are glorious, too. I appreciate your kind words and supportive spirit. 🙂
Oh what an awful awful thing to do to you and Philip. It would have been better if he had asked for an indefinite loan, or offer to repay you each month. It’s the lies and being used that hurt isn’t it. I hope you get in touch with him and discuss getting your money back.
I hope you trust again too Kitty, and I really hope he does still re-pay you.
I know how you feel here as this has happened to me several times, and I too have felt sickened. Last year my cousin asked for a large loan to pay off his van, he said he would pay us back each month for a year. I was so distrustful by this point I didn’t believe him yet still lent him the money….and amazingly he paid the entire sum back month by month, that restored my trust.I only lend money now that I can afford to lose though.
It was a lovely kind thing you both did though, and however badly he has behaved can’t take the act of giving from this story. Here’s hoping for a good outcome…..I have my fingers and toes crossed. Hugs xxxxx
Yes, you’re right; that’s part of the hurt, too: that he couldn’t be honest and ask what we could afford to just give him. My trust in him is shot, but not my trust in others; he doesn’t have that kind of power. 🙂
Your kind heart and encouraging words are such a gift, Snow Bird; thank you. All shall be well. 🙂
Ah, Kitty, I feel your pain. We’ve had similar experiences, though it has been a while. With that in mind, the last time a close friend came to us for a loan, we were pretty sure that he would not likely be able to pay us back as he promised to do. But instead of challenging or questioning him, as it would have been painful for all involved, we simply made it a one-time gift, no need to repay. He was deeply grateful, we know it helped him and his family, and we never expected anything more. It was a healing experience rather than a stressful one and we never gave it another thought (until now.)
I hope you can let go of this, for your own peace of mind, and consider your loan a gift freely given. It will heal the invisible bonds between you and him and allow you to not get wrapped up in his personal drama. If he does repay, it will be a pleasant surprise. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
I appreciate that, Lynn. Yes, we would have gladly given the gift we could have afforded had he been even a tad forthright. Trying very hard to let it go. Thank you for visiting and reaffirming the right path. I’m on it, but only barely. 🙂
Oh, Kitty. I’m so sorry. I keep going back to the passage that talks about his “desperation” (despair, loss of hope ?). It seems he was in a hopeless situation on many levels, not just financially. And he still is, it sounds like.
In his desperation, he turned to you.
What’s bothersome is that it’s not like he stayed in touch with you enough to sense whether or not you could afford to make such a loan (the way, when we’re little, that we know we can “borrow” more from mom or dad than from our little sister or brother : ) ).
So without evening knowing anything about your personal situation, he asked for the loan.
This (unfortunately) doesn’t help the hurt that you and Phillip felt (feel?); however, something led him to you – some spiritual movement. It speaks to your amazing kindness and ability to empathize with everyone that he thought of asking you for help. You listen and never judge. This is who you are. I’m sure even this unfortunate experience won’t change that.
The south side Chicago kid in me wonder: as you noted, he was a department head in your program and had an insight into you.
Maybe he thought you’d be an “easy mark,” just like a teacher knows who her or his best speller is, who the best writer is, etc. After all, he did have that insight. Maybe after numerous dead ends, the light bulb went off and he thought “Hey! I’ll call Kitty.:
The fact that he drove three hours to pick up the check makes me think he was in a really bad place.
Either this man had reached the end of his list of people he could turn to, or maybe he knew that instead of judgment he’d find some kind of comfort in coming to you at this time.
But the bounced check and the fact that he’s not communicating with you are compelling signs that he knew (or could have predicted) that he wouldn’t be repaying the loan any time soon or at all.
Desperation leads us to illusory solutions, in many instances.
I only pray that he did not intend to write you a bum check.
That’s serious business and despair is no excuse for writing a bad check. Depending on the amount of the bounced check, it’s either a misdemeanor or felony. Surely he knows there’s implications.
As you say toward the end, maybe this loan only deferred the rock bottom he was destined to hit eventually.
You still did a kind thing. I hope that he will contact you and isn’t know torturing himself with shame and guilt.
Thank you for your kind heart and the time, thoughtfulness, and wisdom you’ve brought to this, Matt; as another friend said, we can’t let this guy’s dark energy subsume our own, but we’ve both had some challenges with this experience we’d rather have avoided. I’ve learned that writing bad checks, preying on easy marks and lying for loans has been this guy’s MO for a while; living 3 hours away and out of touch with him for 7 years left me too clueless. (He was barely an acquaintance.) I doubt we’ll be repaid, and we’ve re-examined “the rules” regarding our future willingness to lend money, something we’ve never done before and will not likely do again. Had he been honest and asked for a gift we could afford, everything would be different, of course. The challenge now is to let it all go and live here, now…trusting we’ll “make up” that rather large chunk o’ change, and hoping the fellow who willingly betrayed our trust and diminished our savings will travel a path towards balance and peace. The latter, as you may guess, is the greater challenge, as I catch myself imagining wickedly pleasing fantasies of vengeance…my ego is damaged by being perceived as an easy mark, of course, but this guy also hurt Phillip, which is the hardest thing for me to forgive.
Bless your heart. I’m learning as I get older to pay attention to my intuition. That “uh oh” feeling we taught our kids to pay attention to. I am so sorry your soul got bruised.
Oh, thank you, Amma; yes, lesson learned…again. 🙂
I read this and thought about it from time to time over the course of last week. What I would have done in your shoes. My heart goes out to you and your husband for the feeling of being sullied by such an act of dishonesty and betrayal. For indeed it pollutes the clear waters of trust and innocence within one’s heart.
Yet, at the same time, I thought you chose to err on the side of giving. And not turning your face away from the desperation of another soul. I believe the warning bells were ringing but a part of you gave also knowing that it might have been better to be proven wrong in helping than to be proven wrong in being suspicious. I may be wrong but I believe deep down you knew that when you handed over the money, you were ready to part with it for good. Yet, your belief in the goodness of man held out.
Oh, I wish there was a simple formula to living and that we could say with clarity every single time that this is the way! Each situation offers different possibilities and opportunities. And we all encounter such situations in different faces throughout our journey. And we learn that sometimes we made a wrong call. And sometimes we made an excellent one. But could it be that all things work together for good – somehow, somewhere.
I admire you the more I know you.
Yes, Sharon; you’re right: I knew how it would go, but hoped it wouldn’t and have been very sad that it did…a tale told by most hearts somewhere along this blessed journey…it is over, yet II’ll be unpacking lessons for the rest of my life. I hate what this fellow has become and what he did to my family, but I can’t hate him.
All things do work together for good, I agree, but I also believe the possible good is dependent upon our willingness to be wrong and willing to learn new lessons; humbled and willing to appear foolish; hurt and willing to forgive; lost and willing to change direction; broken and willing to reweave our spirits and trust…in other words, we must acknowledge where we are and what we feel, and take Love’s hand to co-create the good that can come from each moment. Often, this is unbelievably effortless and. in this case, for me, it’s taken every ounce of energy I could muster…I’ve only begun to see the gifts my spirit might derive.
I would not wish such lessons for those I love, but I hope when they present themselves, I’ll prove as loyal, comforting, and supportive as you have been to me. Thank you, Sharon; I feel your strength and wisdom blessing me.