Thursday, December 22, 2005

Long personal rambling

Life is good. Even through crisis, one can still find the good in a situation.

Though our house payment hasn't been paid in two months, the bank is working with us. We've let them know each month the situation, so I'm sure the communication helps their benevolence (is that the right word, I wonder). Today, while waiting for his appointment, DH spoke with the CEO, whom he discovered was a man he knew from school years I believe, and the man told DH that he had nothing to worry about. He's not going to lose his home. Basically indicating that he understands people have situations come up in their lives, jobs lost, health problems, or whatever, and that he wants to run this bank like a hometown bank, working with individuals. It was a relief to hear DH relay this to me when he returned home this afternoon. I know it was a relief to hear himself.

As it is, the bank has worked something out where our next payment isn't due until February. Thank you, Lord! Furthermore, he stated that if February comes around and our financial situation hasn't improved, they'll work with us again. I feel confident that they mean it. It's a load off our shoulders. We don't have a large loan with the bank. Our house payment is only $500 a month and we didn't finance this home like a conventional house mortgage. We felt we got this small 2 bedroom/1 bath home at a steal back in 2001 at $32,000 and we didn't want to extend payments through 15 years or more, so DH set it up as a small loan, like a car loan, with a 4 or 5 year span of payments. So there's really not much left on the loan, probably about $18,000, but $500 a month is something we just can't meet when there is no income coming in. I'm very thankful that the bank is being nice about it all 'cause I know they have a lot more to gain if they decided to act like a large city bank. Thankfully, there are kind-hearted people still around in business.

And then there are businesses that do everything by the book, no exceptions, no excuses. Monday our water bill was due or it would be cut off. DH called City Hall to ask if they'd give him another day and they replied "no" and if it payment wasn't made by 5:00 that afternoon, our water would be cut off. No exceptions, no excuses. No leeway for a bill of $27.28. 'Course I should've known this about the Water Dept. During the year when our neighbor was having financial problems herself, she was being threatened to have her water shut off. She had a 2 year old son and I didn't want to see them without water. It's $25 to reconnect (come and turn it back on, that is. $25 to come and turn it back on!) So unknown to her, I went to City Hall, and paid $100 on her account which would take care of the $60+ due and carry a little over into next month's payment. I told the Water Dept. personnel that I was paying for this water bill, unknown to the owner, and would they consider waiving her late fee so that the $100 I was paying would go further in her next bills. Nope! No grace. No mercy. Pay for the water, her late fees, all of it! It reminds me of the line in "You've Got Mail" where Joe Fox (Tom Hank) tells Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) "It's business. It's not personal. It's BUSINESS!" Of course, I loved her reply..."It IS personal! And what's wrong with being personal anyway?" Why can't businesses, especially those servicing the public, be personal with the people? Why can't they consider hardships and give some grace. Most people aren't asking to have their payments waived, erased, made to magically disappear. They're just asking for TIME!

Anyway, after the phone call to the Water Dept. and hearing that it was "pay now or the water will be shut off", I just went for a walk. I grabbed some videos that needed to be returned to the library and walked to the library. After I arrived, one of the ladies who works there asked me how Tommy was doing, was he doing any better. I was tired and said "Honestly, no. He's not back at work yet. It's all politics. And I think they'd like it if he just quietly went away." She agreed that was probably the case. They don't want all that publicity. I told her we'd be fine, though. We'd make it. That it just takes time.

Eventually the conversation steered toward the fact that the water bill was due and they were going to cut it off that day. She asked me what DH was going to do and I said "Oh, we'll probably just sell something or borrow it." She didn't look convinced. "We'll be alright" I said. We were standing at the videos and I was half-heartedly looking for anything interesting and there was a pause in our conversation. Then I heard her say "Who would I make the check out to?" I quickly looked up at her and said "Oh, no, I don't want you to write a check for it. We're ok. We'll get it." She argued with me and said she wanted to do it and how much was it and who should she make it out to. She wouldn't listen to my protests. And I just burst into tears. Right there in the library! She straightened her back and said "Don't you dare!" and taking me behind the wall of books she took my shoulders and said "Don't you dare cry!" Of course, I couldn't help it.

She proceeded to tell me that she was a young mother once with 3 young children and had the water, phone and electric bill all due at the same time. She remembered how useless and helpless she felt, not having a job to provide an income when other women worked (I'm sure she did plenty at home! She just didn't get paid for that job!) She said one of her husband's friends happened to come over that day that all three bills were due, and he gave them money to pay their bills. She said it was around $1,500 and to her that was a fortune (it is to me, too, even in today's times!) She said she will never forget that and that she is just passing it on, what her husband's friend did for them.

I composed myself enough to tell her that she would make the check out to City Hall. She retrieved the cordless phone in the library, brought it to me behind the book case with a phone book, and asked me to call the Water Dept. and find out what the balance was. So I did. $27.28. And between tears I just let her write the check. What could I say? She wanted to do it, and honestly I had no other ideas of how it was going to get paid. I knew DH would find a way. But I didn't know how much time it would take. And I remember thinking "DH is going to kill me letting this woman pay our water bill." Thankfully, though, he's not that proud, and besides the "Oh" when I told him that a friend at the library wrote a check to pay the water bill, he didn't seem upset at me for accepting it. I should have known better. He's not too proud to accept help. Maybe before all this, he might have been. But it gets to a point when one has to just stop refusing and fighting the goodwill of others and let others help when they offer. Pride goes right out the door. It's a false pride anyway. I know that we have helped others before in our same situation and while they were uncomfortable and protested the help, our feelings were that we were happy to help and WANTED to help. Believe me when I say that it's easier to give than to receive. But everyone should be on both ends of that equation. Not only should people experience the warmness felt in giving to others, but they need to experience the not-so-easy-to-accept side of receiving from others. I know that it has helped me better understand the person I'm giving to and how they feel when I've felt that same way before. Knowing how uncomfortable I feel receiving help lets me more gently approach someone who I want to help. It's also taught me that we all go through the same phases in life, in general, and we should all be working to help one another in life.

Goodness, what a long diatribe. If you stayed with me this far, thanks! I really just wanted to use this area to record my thoughts of the past few days. I'm learning that though life can be hard, there are others out there willing to help one through it all. Life is just an ebb and flow. It's always changing and nothing stays the same. I think it's not so important where you are at the end of this life as much as how you made the journey. It's not as important that you make it to the top of the mountain as much as how much you helped your fellow travelers make it up the mountain, too.


Kari said...

Even today there are decent people in the world. They can be hard to spot with the naked eye but they are there.
Be assured that all will work out in the end. Take Care and have faith.

Julie said...

Karla, I have faith that things will get better soon. Your family is so inspiring to me, how you have pulled together to get through this tough time. You all are in my prayers.

Anna said...

Karla - you and your family are an inspiration. What a lovely thing for that nice lady to do. Warm thoughts and Happy Christmas wishes to you.

Rebecca said...

the sun will come up tomorrow. keep smilin!

Christina said...

The goodness of people is always wonderful to me. Hope things look better for you soon!

Wendy said...

I would suggest refinancing your home and using some of the equity income to live off of for awhile. I bet you will find you get a better rate than when you did back in 2001 and it might even lower your payment. I had no idea you were going through such hard times. I hope things look up for you soon.