One of the best ways, IMHO, we can stay motivated on our journeys to debt-free, is to simply learn from others. And I think if we’d keep our eyes open, we’d find learning opportunities in lots of unexpected places, which is what happened to me the other day.
I was at the local auto shop, getting some repairs done on our little commuter car (I am blessed-beyond-blessed to have a brother who’s an auto mechanic).
I love to talk (don’t all bloggers? :-)), which led me to start chatting with some of the other people in the waiting area at the shop. I also love to listen and learn from others, and for some reason, people sense that, and occassionally complete strangers will share life stories with me. A deep desire of mine to learn from others and not make my own mistakes makes hearing these stories a real blessing, and I received a huge blessing that day at the auto shop.
There was a man there, mid-sixties or so, who walked into the door shortly after I did. “My car shakes when I drive down the road” he said. He sat down as the mechanic took his keys, and we acknowledged each other with a smile and a nod. A short while later, the mechanic came back.
“Your car is shaking because your tires are bald.” he said. “The back ones are pretty bare, and the metal cords are showing quite a bit on the fronts. You really need new tires right away, for your own safety.”
“How much?” the man asked.
“$424 for four, $216 for two” the mechanic replied.
The man shook his head. “Four’s not an option for us, but I’ll ask my wife to check the budget and see if we can do two.”
As the mechanic walked away, the man hung his head in despair, and I could sense a story was on its way.
“I never thought I’d end up this way.” he said. And he began to tell his story.
The man had been out of work since August, due to some health problems. His income wasn’t great, but it paid the bills. And there were LOTS of bills, His house and his two rental properties were mortgaged, one for twice what it was worth. And there was tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt.
His original health problem was a torn tendon in his right foot, which left him unable to perform at either of his driving jobs. As they did the pre-op physical for the foot surgery, they found cancer of the prostate. And a bad hip that would need to be replaced. And two shoulders that needed replacing as well. Oh, and a possible bone cancer scare that, thankfully, turned out negative.
What was supposed to be a 6-week hiatus from work had now rendered him unable to work for a minimum of a year. The raditation treatments for the cancer will end in the spring, at which time they’ll schedule the hip replacement, which will be followed by the two shoulder replacements.
The man then went on to explain that they were in the middle of foreclosure proceedings on one of the rental houses, and trying to sell the other, all while working with a lawyer on bankruptcy proceedings. They hoped that they could at least keep the extremely modest house they were living in.
“I never expected this,” the man said as he hung his head. “I’ve always worked hard, and always paid my bills.” He had always had lots of debt, but always figured that since he worked hard and was committed to making his payments, that it was ok. Now, here he was in his mid-sixties, and in the process of losing everything due to unexpected medical conditions.
I felt terribly sorry for this man, who had to take his beyond bald tires home and try and scrounge up $200 to at least replace the front ones.
And I felt even more terrible that, because of our mismanagement of money, we were not in a position to give the man a measly $200 or $400 to help him out.
I realized that good stewardship of our finances is not just about us, but about our ability to show love to others by giving to them when they’re in need. And by our happenstance attitude toward money all of these years, we had not only put ourselves in a dire situation, but eliminated our ability to help others in need as well.
And that story will be yet another checkmark on my mental list of why it’s crucial that we stick to our plan and eliminate our debt. The thought of our family still struggling with money 20 years from now, like the sweet man I met at the auto shop, is enough to keep us going.
The other piece of news here – good news – is that there are lots of positive stories that we can learn from that will motivate us too. There are thousands of people and families that have gone before us and made it to the other side; the side of debt-free. And many of them are sharing their stories in hopes of helping people like us make our own way to debt-free.
And one of the main things I’ve learn from the others in these past three weeks is that no one is in too deep to get out. And that, while you may find a handful of reasons not to make the changes necessary to get out of debt, there are a whole lot more reasons that you should get out of debt, now.
For the sake of your family, your life, won’t you join us on the road to debt-free?