by C. Bakke
Wayne was one of my insurance clients when he was laid off from his factory job. The father of two young children, he was bright and personable, so I suggested he give insurance sales a try. He liked the idea, so he earned a license and began his career as one of my employees.
After about a year he opened his own agency a few miles away. Once in a while, he’d get in a crunch and borrow small amounts of money for a few days. Every time, he gave me a check for the amount he borrowed and dated it for the day I could cash it. Usually it was about a hundred dollars, and I always got it back within a few days. Always.
One Friday afternoon he came in and told me he needed $500 until the following Monday — just three days. Times were tight, and although I had the money, I knew I’d need it early in the week. Still, I trusted him and we exchanged checks.
On Monday I deposited his check. On Wednesday it bounced. I called his office and got no answer. Wayne had been arrested for buying $500 in marijuana a few hours after I gave him the money. When I finally reached him, desperately needing my money back, he told me he bought the marijuana for a friend with cancer, but had been charged with dealing. The police had my money, and Wayne was sure he would go to jail. He said he’d “try” to return my money as soon as he could.
Then I lost track of him. His phones were disconnected, his office was closed, and I heard he’d been sent to jail for six months. That $500 loss really hurt, but I survived.
For years, I heard nothing from Wayne or about him. He vanished with my money, and I understood the lesson “don’t mix money and friends because you will lose them both.”
Five years later, I was sitting in my office writing checks. The money ran out before the bills did, and I was feeling hopeless. I was a single mom, raising four children, and it was tough. Just then, Wayne walked in and handed me five hundred-dollar bills.
He had moved far away and started over. He struggled for a few years, he said, but never forgot about me. “This is the first time I had the money to pay you back,” he said, “and you were always first on my list. What I did five years ago was really stupid, and I wanted to make this good with you.”
Wayne lived more than 1,000 miles away and five years had passed. But there was my money again, when I really needed it. And there was Wayne, proving that some people really do the right thing. This had a profound effect on me, teaching me that paying debts, no matter how long it takes, is a badge of honor.