We Don’t Accept Charity, Mister
The Kindness of Strangers
Bonanza was a long-running television series on Sunday nights in the 1960’s and the early 1970’s. The main character was a widower who was raising three sons, and as they grew into men they pretty much stayed on the ranch near Virginia City, NV. The oldest son was played by Pernell Roberts (“Adam”), the middle son by Dan Blocker (“Hoss”) and the youngest by that long-haired, hippie dreamboat, Michael Landon (“Little Joe”). Lorne Greene was the forsaken father of the three (“Ben.”)
Out of the more than 400 episodes, one scene in one show has stuck with me most of my life because of one line I had never understood until recently. One of the boys found some squatters in the horse barn. They were a family who had fallen on hard times and were on their way to California to make their fortune, but had no money for the trip, apparently. So they camped out in barns and sheds along the way, hoping each time to leave early in the morning before they were found by the landowners.
I can’t remember which character–Hoss, Ben, Little Joe or Adam–found them in the horse barn. In keeping with the characters’ traits, though, we can surmise that it was Hoss. Hoss finds them in the horse barn, because they couldn’t leave early enough. One of the children had a high fever and couldn’t travel. Hoss figured out what was going on, and after some initial suspicion, invited them into the ranch house for some real food and to take care of the sick child.
The father, rather than being grateful, got angry and says “We don’t accept charity, Mister.”
I didn’t understand that response. Part of my confusion was that they had trespassed without permission, and so they had effectively taken charity without permission. I didn’t know why they felt justified in finding shelter in someone’s stable, but when there was a freely given offer of better care for themselves and their children, they were insulted. Their pride was at stake, and Hoss saw right through this. Rather than escalate their hurt feelings at not being able to take care of their children, Hoss reminded them of Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goeth before a fall.” He then reminded them that the child was not going to get better without care, so if they took charity it was okay. It was taking care of their kids, after all.
In short, the episode ended with everything turning out fine: the people were upstanding, kid got well, they headed on to California with a new appreciation for humanity.
Last Sunday was a hard day for me. I had lost my wallet on Saturday, as it fell out of the pocket of my jeans. The pocket has had a hole in it for some time, but I liked the jeans’ style so I wore them often and reminded myself to use the left pocket for my wallet every time I put it away after taking it out. I forgot after my last stop on Saturday evening, and slipped it into the wrong pocket. I didn’t realize until nearly an hour later that I had lost it and went to the last store at which I had used it to see if someone had, by chance, turned it in. I retraced all the paths between there and here and to no avail. No one had turned it in, and it wasn’t on the ground anywhere.
I was despondent, because on top of all the other monetary issues I am facing right now, I was facing the very real prospect of identity theft, and unauthorized usage of my credit cards. I also needed to replace my driver’s license and health insurance cards, etc. Things were looking so bleak for me after a year of more downs than ups that for the first time, I actually thought it was about time that I took advantage of the fact that I am past the suicide exclusion clause of my life insurance plan.
Life doesn’t give us do-overs. I can’t go back to that fatal decision to drop out of college, a decision that I still think is about the dumbest decision I have ever made. [Note: Sentence excised. MH] I was faced on that Sunday with the fact that I was likely to be homeless within a month or two, unable to continue to stretch my debts and rent any longer. I would have to give up my car as an involuntary repo, find someplace to rent like a room downtown in a flophouse, all the while trying to maintain my relationship with my kids and trying to occasionally send their mother some money to help support them. I couldn’t see myself having the strength to do it without losing my will to live.
It was a bad day, and try as I could to stay strong in front of my daughter, I let slip what was ailing my mind. Of course she didn’t know what to do or say about it, but having a caretaker personality she did her best to try to comfort me. The thing is that my despair is not a result of any sort of organic depression. (I’ve been to psychologists and they all concurred that I may have problems but nothing that can be diagnosed as a medical depression.) It’s money and my mishandlings that have been weighing me down. The sad part is that I work for a bank, right?
I had sent an e-mail to Greg and Stephanie that I just couldn’t bring myself to write a post for Quiche Moraine for my regular Monday contribution, and felt like I had let them down. But as much as I tried I just couldn’t finish the piece I had in the hopper. I couldn’t concentrate.
It was then that I received an e-mail from someone who reads my blog.
“How would you feel about accepting some money?”
I responded, “At one time my pride would have directed me to beg off and say, ‘Thank you for the offer, but I can’t accept charity.’ In this case, I am in a position that doesn’t give me the opportunity to stand on pride.” And I can’t, honestly. If it were just me, and if no one else depended on me, then I would be in a position to refuse. If not for those who depend on me to provide health insurance, etc., I could have declined a generous offer.
The second response came back. “I will send you $n tomorrow.” When I saw how much she was sending, I was floored, because I could never have expected that amount from anyone. Seriously. It was far more than I had even dreamed she might offer.
She only asked that if I felt the need to repay it in five years to do so, and that I keep her updated on how things are going. That was all she wanted. True to her word, the check arrived last week. When I sent her a gushing e-mail of thanks, I promised to thank her in a post here at Quiche Moraine and so, I write.
She asked to remain anonymous. I will happily accede to her request, and I also ask that people not speculate in the comments.
What This Does for Me
While my problems are not solved, I am back in control. I have decisions to make on how to use these funds, but I am able to properly breathe and proactively make these decisions. I am no longer on my back heels, trying to hang on by my fingernails. I now feel free to mix metaphors with impunity.
I am not sure what I am going to decide about the car situation, whether to continue to make a payment on the new car or to replace the engine on another car. A second piece to the financial puzzle may help me make that decision, but I am now not having to make it until the end of September, and by that time, I will be in an even better position to decide.
Most importantly, and this is the reason that I am incredibly grateful to my benefactor, the fleeting temptation to take my own life is completely gone. I can see my way out of where I have been and I don’t have to consider that option any longer.
Thank you. Pride can be a hard thing to swallow whenever offered charity, but it tastes better than a bullet.
This entry was posted on Monday, August 10th, 2009 at 7:22 am and is filed under Mike Haubrich. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.