When I was a child I had a neighbor, Freddie, who loved her Cadillac “more than your mama loves you.” She announced this to us kids after our rubber kick ball hit her Caddy, effectively letting us know that she cared more about things than people, including her youngest son, Hasani, who still lived with her and was standing with her on the porch as she shouted about her love. Her daughter, Mickey, had moved away, I think with a guy, and her son, Billy, had gone away, incarcerated after some thefts and drug dealing. She told us that day that she loved her car more than children, but we already knew this. When he was in high school she bought Billy a 1977 Cadillac Coupe Deville complete with a TV and he would drive with that gangster lean, slumped so low that we wondered if there was a new auto drive feature on that banana stretch beauty. He also wore furs and Freddie wore furs and every other cent she made because her bills went unpaid. After giving her children lavish gifts she would borrow from my mother and we hated it.
“Mama, why you loaning her money? She never pays you back like she says,” one of us would say. “She needs to sell one of dem furs,” another might chime in. “She’s just using you,” someone else would say.
“I’m not worried about her paying me back. Her lights are going to get cut off, and nobody can use you unless you let them,” mama said.
We’d cluck our teeth in doubt, sure that pay-day would never come and that my mother would continue to succumb to Freddie’s pleads about much-needed cash. It didn’t matter to my mother that Freddie loved things more than people; that she lavished her kids with things and didn’t love them with time and talk; that she would spend money on things and not on her bills; that she would likely not pay her back when she said she would; or that we thought her unwise to loan Freddie money.
I learned a lot from my mother’s interaction with Freddie, chief among the lessons being that I would not loan to someone who has her financial priorities out-of-order. I had long made this an absolute in my life, but considering the broader picture of the lives of people in need, I have had to reconsider my position.
I have had to reconsider when children are involved and will be negatively affected by a mother’s poor choices.
I have had to reconsider when a wife thought she was making the right decision in light of her husband’s poor choices.
I have had to reconsider in light of God’s mercies on me.
Over the last few years I have taken my reconsiderations and my mother’s philosophy about people using you and have lined them up with some scriptures that we all would do well to be mindful of:
“Do to others as you would like them to do to you. If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:31-35—NLT).
“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers,* cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay” (Matthew 10:8—ESV).
In essence, we are to treat others well because 1) we must represent God and 2) God treats us well. As children of the Most High God we should act like our Father. He extended and continues to extend His mercy toward us, healing us from our issues. We didn’t have to pay Him for that so we shouldn’t expect payment for healing others. Therefore, regardless of whom others are and what they do, every act that we do for others should be in tribute to God.
Take a Risk Challenge: Extend yourself to someone, whether by giving money, a ride, conversation, etc. and expect nothing in return.
My One Thousand Gifts List
A supportive husband encouraging me to go see Voddie Baucham while he stayed home with the boys
Tabitha saying, “You’re a mama” and how much she appreciated me
Hearing a thought-provoking message from Voddie Baucham and having money to purchase resources
Joshua being honest enough to share when he’s done wrong and his other struggles
Joshua giving me a drawing he did in art class, saying “I didn’t draw this for you but I want you to have this.”
Nate asking, “You want to sit down, mom?” his way of asking me to watch something with him and I did
Seeing today just how perfect the Veggie Tales DVD is needed for Joshua just like Flynn said yesterday
Being in God’s presence calming my anxiety
Hanging with friends in Birmingham for a birthday celebration
Eating outdoors at Elie’s Mediterranean Grille/Bar