I’m not proud to admit it, but I’m a penny-pincher. You know the type. I’m the guy that sweats bullets in the summer to keep my AC bill low, only to later pile on layers of clothing in the winter to save on heating. So, you can only imagine the anxiety I felt when a deposit I was expecting for $1000 never made it into my bank account.
I own a small rental house out of state, and I’ve had the same faithful tenant for years. The problem is that this faithful tenant would send the rent check to a property manager each month who would routinely forget to make the deposit into my account. The person who was supposed to make my life as a landlord easier wound up being the very person who seemed to make things more difficult.
Usually, the deposits were eventually made after a few reminder texts or emails. Sometimes on the 10th….the 17th….maybe even on the 21st. What day might the deposit show up this month? It was truly anyone’s guess. Yet the money would inevitably pop up in my account, like an unexpected mini jackpot prize, and then the penny-pincher in me would utter a sigh of relief as my mortgage could once again be paid.
One particular month, however, the days ticked by with no deposit whatsoever. A call to the tenant confirmed as usual that the money was indeed sent to the property manager. However, all calls, emails, and texts to the property manager went unanswered. We were in a brand-new month now. Something must be amiss, I thought.
My ego and penny-pinching tendencies spiraled out of control. How could he do this to me?! This money doesn’t belong to him—it’s mine! How could he not even have the decency to call me back? $1000 is no small chunk of change! I have a mortgage to pay! On and on, the ranting continued. Being a good Course student, however, I decided to adopt a different tactic. No Workbook lesson ever involved Jesus having us scream profanities into a pillow, so I knew any new strategy would be an improvement at this point. Maybe if I took a deep breath and turned things over to the Holy Spirit, he might provide some guidance.
Did I truly need this money? No. I did have a savings account (as any good penny-pincher does). I could survive and go one month without it. Was I seeing this property manager through loving eyes? Definitely not. So, I decided to play big, walk the talk, and shift my perspective. I paused, picked up the phone, and left something similar to the following on his voicemail:
“Well, you’re probably assuming I’m calling yet again about the missing deposit. But this time, I’m actually not. It suddenly occurred to me that you might need this money more than I do. When I’m on my deathbed someday, I won’t be taking stock of a check that wasn’t deposited. Instead, I’d like to think that I’ll be focusing more on the kindness that I’ve extended to others. I know we don’t know each other all that well, but I suddenly realized that at the core of who we are, there’s so much more that connects us than divides us. So, if you ever need to talk with someone about anything, I just want you to know that I’m here to listen. Your life matters more to me than little green strips of paper.”
I hung up the phone, still a bit shocked at what had come out of my mouth. Just a few minutes later, he called me back. He mentioned that in all of his years as a property manager, with all of the angry owners he’s dealt with, he had never received a call quite like mine. He proceeded to tell me that the past few months had been the hardest of his life. His wife of 50 years had developed Alzheimer’s dementia. He was her sole care provider at home, and recently she had left the house alone without any identification. After frantic 911 calls, the police found her wandering miles away without any idea where she lived. His grown children didn’t seem to understand the toll that this situation was taking on his life. They didn’t empathize with the fact that the woman he had been in love with for so many years seemed to be a shadow of her former self. He was simply falling short on his duties as a property manager while trying to grapple with working and caring for his wife full time. Thankfully, money was not an issue for him at this point, but instead, it was the psychological and physical tolls that were the most difficult.
As this man I only knew on a superficial, transactional level began to share the details of his personal life with me, I experienced what could only be described as a sense of wonder. Neither of us could have predicted that this would have been the conversation we would be having with one another as the day began. And yet here we were. A man was choking back tears on the phone with someone he barely knew, revealing feelings that he wasn’t sure he could relay to his own children.
Moving from, “This person owes me $1000!” to “This person is my holy brother who needs my love” within a span of minutes is a feat that still astounds me. And it is a shift that never could have occurred prior to A Course in Miracles entering my life. Never. Not in a million years. Lest there be some cynics out there who feel that this property manager could have invented the story to garner sympathy, I was able to confirm every detail from my loyal tenant who had met this man and witnessed the decline of his wife firsthand.
As we finished the call, we decided that my trusty tenant could just send checks directly to me from now on. That would be one less thing for this stressed property manager to worry about. Still, I told him that he could always call me if he ever just felt the need to speak to someone.
Just as we were saying our goodbyes, he said, “Oh, one last thing—check your bank statement, Derek. Just after I heard your message, I put the $1000 in your account.”
The penny-pincher relinquished his attachment to money, only to have the Holy Spirit return it to him wrapped in a deposit slip of love. It just warms the cockles of my cold, too-cheap-to-turn-on-the heater heart.
A miracle is a service. It is the maximal service one person can render another. It is thus a way of loving your neighbor as yourself. (T-1.18:1-3)
Quotations from A Course in Miracles are from the Complete and Annotated Edition, published by the Circle of Atonement.