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I'll never be poor again

A story about a time when I didn't have $84.

October 10, 2020

One time my wife and I were on our way home from a Church meeting. We had two kids at the time, and for some reason we didn’t have them with us (normally we would bring them).

It’s only about a 5 minute drive home from church, so we had some extra time to ourselves while the kids were at their grandparent’s. On the way home there’s a gas station, and we stopped to get some gas to fill up the car.

At that gas station we noticed a man who was sitting outside with a duffel bag. This normally wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but it was really cold out, so there’s no reasonable purpose to be sitting out there.

My wife prodded me to ask him if he needed any help. I shied away from the idea, but eventually we both went to go see if he was okay.

After a minute or two, we heard his story about how he recently left an abusive relationship and was temporarily homeless. We felt for him. It was really cold out, and we wanted to help him.

We invited him to get into our car and we took him to the closest motel in town. He was thrilled.

In the car my wife prayed with him and led him to Christ. It turns out he was already a Christian but had waned away from the things of God. She had it on her heart to ensure he was saved, and even gave him a Bible he could read.

We got to the motel. Suddenly, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach.

Why? Because I knew if this motel cost too much, I wouldn’t have enough to cover it. Pay day was tomorrow. We lived paycheck to paycheck. We cut up all of our credit cards in attempt to not get into any more debt.

I convinced myself that this place probably wasn’t that expensive and followed through with the plan.

We got inside. The place was empty except for the single person behind the counter. I didn’t see any numbers indicating the rate of a one-night stay, so I asked if we could book a room for a night.

While he was ringing up the bill, I checked my phone to see how much money I had. That’s when I started to panic internally. I knew it was going to be close, and I didn’t have any options if I didn’t have enough.

The man behind the counter wasn’t a native english speaker. The conversation wasn’t incredibly productive, but eventually we got to the point where I needed to pay.

“It’s $84”, he said.

I don’t remember exactly how much I had at the time. Probably somewhere in the $60 range. I knew I didn’t have enough.

Still, I went through with the transaction, casually acting like I didn’t know anything was wrong.

After a few failed attempts, and a few different cards (that I knew wouldn’t work), the transaction ultimately failed. I couldn’t book a room at a motel for this homeless man. I was mortified.

The man didn’t seem to care too much, he was very grateful to have a good conversation with us and spend some time with other people. He mentioned that we could just drop him off at WalMart and he’d wander around for a few hours.

So that’s what we did.

I don’t really remember what happened on the way home from that event. I don’t remember getting my kids, or the conversation I had with my wife. Though I didn’t show it on the outside, I was broken.

I vowed this would never happen again.

Never.

There had been other times when I didn’t have a lot of money, like when I couldn’t afford to get my son birthday presents. But this was different.

Going out of my way to offer to help someone, and then ultimately not being able to deliver on that offer made me dishonest. It made me untrustworthy. It made me realize how incapable I was of doing anything I wanted to do.

I like to think back on moments in my life that define who I am. They cauterize the way I think. They radically change my demeanor about certain attitudes.

This specific moment drove everything home for me. It’s an event that was completely internally embarrassing. It destroyed my ego. From then on I didn’t care what other people thought.

This is another one of the chips on my shoulder. Something that drives me to be better. To grow. To increase.

Not only do I want to help one person, I want to help thousands. I want to be able to provide for my family and be able to help a thousand other families. That’s the legacy I want to leave on this earth.