Big Money

Evangelicals are doing (have been doing) something right about money.  That is, they’re talking about it to the point that it’s not taboo to ask for it.

It seems to me that every Catholic “ask” I’ve heard has been a high-wire act, with the asker hoping not to offend, hoping not to trip over the wire of anyone’s sensibilities.  That’s too bad.

So, with the encouragement of an Evangelical’s book on money management, Marcy and I have renewed our efforts to be good stewards of our finances.  Right after we buy a new car.  And a helicopter.

In seriousness, I’ve been praying earnestly about it, hoping for patience and self-control, for willingness to continue giving even if I can’t have everything I want.  All generally good practices.

Another good practice is that I can work overtime in order to cut down our debts or increase our savings, both giving us the concrete results that are so satisfying in an endeavor like this.  In roughly that context, I dared to pray that God would, if it is good, make something big happen.  I confessed that I did not know what that could be, and that I have no clear idea how to make it happen, so there should be no mistaking that He is doing it.  I just wanted to see it, to dare to ask for it.  Nevertheless, even if such a thing were not to happen, I would be content with His blessings on our own efforts.

I decided to let that slip somewhere to the middle of my mind:  not to be looking, but to be aware.

We had a carpet cleaner at work that was an absolute nuisance to use.  It had a 20′ hose, and we only used it for spot cleaning.  So, you either had to make two trips to get it to the scene of the grime, or else informally apply for the circus with a balancing act that would make any trained elephant blush.

Consequently, we bought a new one, better suited to our needs, and put the old one for sale on Craigslist for $450.  I had two buyers, and the first one agreed to come all the way from Indiana to check it out.  The other was in the city, but since he was second, I put him on hold.

When the first buyer arrived, he had his son with him – a young man who ended up doing most of the talking.  The older man checked out the machine – his son told me he was very familiar with such models, and said so in a very friendly way.  Satisfied, the older man stood up and said, “I know you’re asking $450-”

Naturally, I saw this coming.  I figured anyone who came to look at it would want to negotiate, and I don’t blame them.  But I did have a buyer on deck, with cash in hand.

“and you know the situation with my job and my family,” he continued.  I did know, because he told me on the phone – he was about to be let go from a cleaning company, where he was the manager.  His goal was to work on his own, and try to earn a living that way.  For that to be successful, he needed equipment.

“Would you take $350?  It would mean a lot for us.”

His voice cracked.  He wasn’t putting me on.

I was quiet for a long moment, and he didn’t try to say anything else.  First, though I expected the negotiation, I was a little disappointed.  This was already a pretty good price.  But I quickly let that go.  Second, this wasn’t my money, and it would be used for an unquestionably good cause.  What right did I have to discount that price?  Well, maybe a pretty good right, based on reasons which will be omitted because they could only be seen as boastful.  Finally, I simply understood that it was the right thing to do, and I had the privilege of being in a position to make it happen.  That’s uncommon, and it shouldn’t be squirreled away for petty reasons.

“Yeah.  Yes, let’s do that.”

They counted out the money for me to see, a nice gesture though I had no doubt it would all be there.  He expressed his thanks several times, holding back tears, and I tried to shed any notion that I was his benefactor.  It was just a good thing to do.  Let’s not have pride muddying the waters, least of all false pride.

It would be a couple hours before I realized what happened, or at least one interpretation of what had happened.  That is, God had answered my prayer, though my bank account did not grow because of it.


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