Today’s quote spoke to me.
After a bitter quarrel, some resentment must remain. What can one do about it? Therefore the sage keeps his half of the bargain But does not exact his due. A man of Virtue performs his part, But a man without Virtue requires others to fulfill their obligations. The Tao of heaven is impartial. It stays with good men all the time.
I did some work for a guy (a collections agency of all things), and he stiffed me. I had known him from the business community, Chamber of Commerce, a church group of all places, and our general neighborhood zone. We bumped into each other from time to time. I had attempted to get him to pay me for some time, but my emails and phone calls went unanswered. I’d see him here and there and make it a point to talk to him, but he always managed to slip away. I knew that his business was struggling, but damnit, I was struggling too, and I had wasted my time helping him out. He needed to talk to me, make a payment plan, something, I thought.
It was in that mindset that I ran into him at his church one day. “Hey J,” I said, “How’s it going?” And I clasped his hand firmly. Very firmly.
“Hey! Let go of me,” he whined.
“J, you owe me some money. You know that right? You’ve not paid me a dime. Not one dime. Never. I did work for you and you won’t even talk to me.”
“Hey, let go of me.”
“You know, J, it’s awkward. We travel in the same circles. We can’t help but run into each other, talk to the same people. You know that right? I need you to pay me something, J.”
And he pulled his hand away. He was obviously stressed out and nervous at this point. He turned tail and fled, disappearing into his meeting room where he was on his church council. Oh the irony, I thought. I did feel bad however. I may look like a big tall American asshole, but I’m a softy, and I felt bad for putting on the spot like that. Fuck it, I thought. Son of a bitch owes me money, least he can do is say he’s sorry and try to make it up. I’m not the one who stiffed him. He called me, I showed up, slaved over his network issues, went to meetings for him at the drop of a hat – everything he asked. The fees were also discussed up front, so there should have been no surprise. Asshole. And my pity faded quickly – aw, who am I kidding. I thought that he probably felt like shit that night, worried that I would tell everybody I knew what a creep he was. Poor guy, I thought.
About a month later, I get a nice email from him saying that he has been trying to put things right with his creditors, that he wants to make it right with me, that he feels bad for not being able to pay, that things have been tough. He wanted to know what sort of payment plan I would be willing to accept. I said three payments of $750 should do it. I could spread them out over quarters, if he wanted.
He agreed and I resubmitted my invoice for the initial payment. It took him a while, but I eventually got a check along with a nice note wishing me and my family a Merry Christmas, that he was sorry for the almost two year delay, and that he hoped this began to mend the business relationship.
That’s nice, I thought, but I’m not writing shit back until this thing clears. Hah, I’m such a cynic, no?
So, to finish up, I deposited the check, it cleared, I wrote him back thanking him and saying no hard feelings, that I’m cool, and that I’d do business with him again (a lie, but I didn’t want him to think I would be badmouthing him). His worst fear, I’m sure, was that I would be spreading the gossip of our problem to others in the community. I wanted him to know that he had nothing to fear from me at that point. J, you’re off the hook.
And I never submitted the other two invoices. I don’t know why. Maybe I wanted to be righteous, maybe I wanted the upper hand, maybe I wanted to be magnanimous. Maybe I just felt bad for him and figured I was better to be done with it. I got some money out of it and the poor man had suffered enough. I’m a softy. Don’t tell anyone. I had never considered that I was a sage*, though. That’s cool, I very much like that.
*Laura says I am not a sage. Okay, can I be a little itty bitty sage? Is that all right with you, hon?