I was completely broke. We had lost everything as real estate investors in the 2008 economic meltdown. Evicted from our home, we moved to one of our properties only to have it repossessed by the bank. People would destroy their rentals when getting kicked out, so the banks started offering renters cash to leave and not harm the house. Because we were renting from our company, they offered us $3K to move out peacefully. We happily took the offer. I hadn’t had an income in some months.
Melissa and I decided since we had lost everything financially, we should consider moving somewhere else. We moved to Utah and temporarily stayed with my in-laws while I looked for a job. The economy was shaky and months passed by with no luck finding work. We had no money, and it put tremendous strain on our family and our marriage. Melissa and I are lucky. We don’t fight much, and when we do, we still love each other after. One night we had a go at each other. We were both frustrated. I burst out, “I would leave if I had gas money!” It makes us laugh today, but at the time, I had never felt so broken and so trapped. We had nothing, and it seemed that no one was hiring.
We made it through that period and I eventually got a job. A good job. A perfect fit for my skill set and personality. I got in and got to work. They paid me well, and soon we found a house to rent, which enabled us to give Melissa’s parents their house back. Things were heading in the right direction. We had so little for so long that every dime we made went to pay for things that were long overdue. If you’ve ever experienced total loss, you understand what I mean. Even with a good steady income, it felt like treading water. However, things were looking up. I performed well at my new job and their sales organization was growing.
I had to travel often to the different locations I was in charge of. I drove constantly, taking my own laptop everywhere with me and using it every day. One day, deciding to get some exercise, I rode my bike to work. I left the bike at work overnight and got a ride home that evening. The next day I brought my truck and when I left that evening after work, I took my bike home with me.
I put my laptop in my backpack and as I walked out to load the bike into the truck, it fell from my shoulder. I set the bag down on the ground next to the passenger side door, thinking, “I’ll just put the bike up and then grab the computer after.” I proceeded to put the bike in the truck and then promptly forgot about the backpack. I got in my truck, backed out of the stall, turning my wheel as I backed up. Suddenly, my front tire rolled over something. Startled, I wondered what could be in the parking lot that I had just run over.
I jumped out and, to my horror, there lay my backpack, obviously having been run over by a 6000 lb vehicle. My heart sank to my toes. I opened the bag and my aluminum Apple computer actually seemed to be ok at first glance with only a couple of minor dents in the casing. Then I opened the lid to find the screen severely damaged. Half of the screen, where the tire had run it over, was unusable.
I did not have the money to replace my laptop or the screen. We were still very much living paycheck to paycheck, and this would mess everything up. I had to have a computer to do my job. I had never had a job that would buy equipment for their employees, so that never even crossed my mind. I told my boss what happened and how I was distraught, but I told him I could use the computer with half a screen and I would be ok. The last thing I wanted was for them to want to find someone else who had a computer. I needed that job.
I remember feeling so helpless at that moment. My boss, who became a dear friend and mentor to me, could sense my distress. He looked at me and said, “If there’s a problem and money can solve it—it’s not a problem.”
At that moment, this seemed so trite and almost mean. I admit, I was a little offended, thinking how this was a problem for me. I also thought how convenient it must be to be in a position like he was, where a couple of thousand dollars for a new laptop isn’t a problem. It did, however, get me thinking. I quickly realized that there were people who had terrible health concerns with no cure. There are others who have recently lost a loved one, people gripped with addiction or plagued by relationship problems. THOSE are problems that no amount of money can solve. Those are real problems. Mine was a problem that could be solved with money, so it wasn’t really a problem.
I calmed down and realized I could still use most of the functions of my computer even with a half screen. I could aggressively save money and get a laptop soon enough. Until then, I would survive and make do. I was grateful to have at least half of a functional screen.
Within a couple of weeks, my boss handed me a brand new MacBook. He said, “you’re doing great, keep up the good work.” The situation was solved. I was very grateful.
At times in my life, when things seem dire or I am dealing with financial problems, I think of this comment from years ago. It always puts things into perspective. I also use the opportunity to count my blessings. The greatest of which are my relationship with my wife, our children, my health, the opportunity I have to do something I love, surrounded by people I love, and that I have not missed many meals in my life, even when things have been hard. There are others with real problems. Mine only require a little money, and I can make more money.