Life certainly throws some interesting lessons at you–when, of course, you least expect it.
Today I was able to help out a friend who needed it. I had received a panicked message a week ago, essentially: please help, I need to make it through the next month, and I cannot do it myself. A phone call to learn more about what was going on was rushed, on both our ends, and didn’t help me a lot. Something seemed very strange about the whole thing.
I talked with Cathy about it. Somewhat to my surprise, she did not immediately suggest ignoring the request, which to be honest is what pure logic would have demanded. (This really did take me by surprise, as Cathy is extremely logical, and I was expecting such a response.) Instead, she said that she had once received the advice that loaning money to friends was always a bad idea–but that giving a gift was an option, if I could afford it. I probably blinked a couple times, blankly, and then realized that this was my answer. (Cathy is just like that sometimes, and I love her for it.)
So, this morning, I met him and his niece for breakfast, and gave him a gift to help him get through this period of time. I actually got to learn much more about what has been happening that has put him in this position, which definitely helped me to confirm that he is still the same person I remember. (Although truthfully, I had really made up my mind beforehand, on faith.)
The gift definitely carries the risk of uncertainty. There are no guarantees that the help that I, and apparently a few others, have given him will not be needed again once the period is up. There is no immediate job prospect. The events that have brought him to this position are just fantastic enough to tempt the cry of BS. Et cetera. The only reason he is even in this good a position is that his personal relations with appropriately influential people are good enough for him to call in on, now that he needs them.
On the other hand, this is a proud person who has made it on his own before, and who does have a reputation for being a straight shooter. (As a mutual friend once put it, he may “always have some deal going on”, which may turn out to be a really bad idea in the end, but I’ve not heard anyone impugn his honesty.) On the phone, when telling me he may need to call on me for help–before he knew for sure–he started babbling, which I know is something he does when he gets stressed out about something. And this morning, he seemed to have a bit of trouble actually taking the envelope.
If I know the guy like I think I do, my decision is clear, regardless of the circumstances. It may not be a good risk, and I hate uncertainty more than almost anything else, but this is my friend. I am in a position in which I can help. And, this being a gift rather than a loan, I do not expect to see it again, which–oddly, in a way–allows me to be more settled about the whole thing.
What happens now, of course, nobody knows. We’ll see how it pans out. But it somehow struck me as I left the diner this morning, that I had just done something decidedly irrational, and yet actually felt pretty good about it in the end. How about that? And somehow, I noticed that the traffic was a little less of a problem, the sky seemed a little bluer, and the pile of work in front of me for the day seemed a little more manageable.
I suppose I’m out a little money now–I did make it clear that it was not a loan–but I don’t know, something about the way he seemed a little surprised that people had stood up to help him out, something about the way he started to object about the “gift, not loan” concept but then stopped himself and simply nodded…
That could have been me. That could someday be me. And that is exactly the sort of thing I would do, if I had to do what I absolutely would never want to do.
Sometimes, I suppose, it’s more than the money. Maybe it’s the season.