Monday, January 16, 2012

When Kindness Is Hard...

The letter caught my eye as I went through the mail. It was addressed to my husband and written in a fine, spidery handwriting, much like an elderly person would write. The return address was Houston, about four hours from us. There was no name on the return address, just a street address.

When he got home and opened it, his forehead crinkled as he read it. Then he laughed. "Some lady in Houston thinks you and I are house painters and we took money from her to paint her house and never did it. She's saying she wants us to do it now or face legal consequences."

I had to chuckle because we don't even paint our own house. My husband is a manager at a large refinery, I am a schoolteacher, and we have never been house painters. As I looked at the letter, I deduced some things about the writer. First, she was most likely elderly, based on the shakiness of her writing. From her diction and semantics, it appeared she may not have had the opportunity for much schooling. I felt sorry for her. She signed it Miss Beulah ______.

"I'll write her a letter back, explaining that she's got the wrong couple. I know she'll appreciate having the information," I told him.

After I wrote it, I patted myself on the back. I felt I was kind to Miss Beulah in the letter, gently pointing out her mistake in sending it to us and even ending with a note that I truly hoped she found the right person and got what she paid for.

The next week, we received another letter from her. She was old she said, but she wasn't a fool. There were too many people who took advantage of the elderly. She had saved several years to get this money to paint her house. We took her $1,000 she said, and she wanted us to get her house painted. Now.

It took me by surprise. My husband reasoned, "Well, I'm going to have to call her and explain things. It's too bad she's spending time on us when the real person has her money and isn't doing anything."

He called the number she supplied in the letter. She answered and when he asked how she got our name and address, she explained she paid a neighbor boy $40 to conduct an internet search on my husband's name (which he shared with the slacker paint contractor) and the first address that came up was ours. She also remembered the wife telling her they lived in our area, so she knew it was us.

He patiently explained to her our facts, where we worked and that we had not ever been paint contractors. My husband is a very kind man and while he was on the phone with her, even did an internet search on his own for this painter. He found the man, his address, and even some clues to his paint contracting business online and gave the information to her. She thanked him and we thought all was well, good deed done.

Several weeks later, a constable pulled up to our house. We've known him for years and his wife worked with me. "You all been scamming old people?" he laughed. "Man, I've known you guys for a long time and didn't think you made your living stealing from the elderly!" he chortled as he handed over a summons. We were to appear in the county courtroom two weeks hence to answer the suit. There was nothing else to do at this point but appear in small claims court.

At school the next day the constable's wife laughed as she asked me in front of others in a faculty meeting about my new plan to steal from the elderly and retire early. I wasn't finding this so funny anymore. In fact, it irritated me more by the minute. "It's going to be alright, " my husband soothed when I told him. "Once we get there they'll see we're the wrong ones and that will be it."

We both had to take a day off of work and saw we would be missing one of Teenaged Daughter's volleyball games, as well.

We drove 25 miles to the courthouse and were shown to a waiting room. As a bailiff gave us information on our roles as defendants in the case, a young engineer from the mentoring group my husband leads at church walked past. The bailiff loudly continued his instructions to us, addressing us as "Defendants". The engineer looked startled even as he waved hello and his eyes widened. He hurried off.

"Great. Now everyone at church is going to think we've done this, too," I complained.

"No, they're not. They know us. Don't let it bother you."

"I've always had such great respect for the elderly, honey, but I really am upset with this lady. She's refused to listen to reason, she's caused us all this trouble, and people are always going to think there's a seed of truth even in the most outlandish of rumors. She's hurting our reputation!"

He put his hand over mine. "The truth is always going to come out. And we need to feel compassion for this lady. She's out a lot of money."

A large, elderly woman wheezed her way into the waiting area. She carried a faded purse and had on a worn sweater. Wisps of white hair peeked out from under a dark brown wig. "We made it. Finally, I'm gonna get some justice, " she nodded to a man who looked to be in his twenties. "I'll pay you the other half of what I owe you for driving me here when we get home." She fingered the clasp on her purse. "Lord, I don't have the money to be doing this, but it's wrong when people take advantage of the elderly."

Her companion nodded disinterestedly. "Yes'm, Miz Beulah."

I poked my husband and raised my eyebrows. He smiled and patted my hand.

Inside the courtroom, I still fumed inside at the disruption Miss Beulah had caused in our lives and at all the tongues that would be wagging about it. I had to pray and ask God for help because I was feeling so frustrated by it all.

She entered after us and settled herself uncomfortably in a too little chair. She wheezed as she worked to get her breath, still clutching her purse to her. She looked at us as the judge called out our names. Her shoulders slumped and her head dropped.

"Oh, Judge, "she said as she lifted her head again. "These are not the right people. I've made a mistake."

She turned to us. "I'm so sorry. Please forgive me." My heart melted and compassion finally flooded through me.

The judge dismissed the case and we met up with Miss Beulah again in the hall. I wanted to move past her as quickly as we could and get on with the day. Her weary eyes looked down as we neared. There was a catch in her voice as she said, "I'm so sorry. I've inconvenienced you folks and I never meant to. I just wanted justice to be done. Now, I've spent all this money to get here and I will have to start all over again."

My husband smiled gently at her as he replied, "Don't worry about that, Miss Beulah. Can we take you and your friend to lunch? Our treat."

She smiled in relief. "And," my husband continued, "I think I can give you all the information again you need to find your painter..." as we walked out of the courtroom.

I just love that man.

36 comments:

  1. Another of life's experiences that help us grow even though during the experience we may not be so sure it has any worth. I hope she finally got the justice she was looking and praise God for the way you two handled the situation.

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    1. I, too, hope she got justice. Folks like that painting contractor should be banished from civilized society!

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  2. That's the way to hang in there and create a win-win. It might take a while. It might take the patience of Job, but that win-win is out there waiting to be secured if you are resourceful enough. If one approach doesn't work try another and then another.

    These days you never know for sure what type of scam you might be dealing with. An alleged victim might turn out to be a con artist. A person seemingly in need of a good Samaritan might be conducting a money making ruse. A few mornings ago Mrs. Shady was putting gas in her car at a convenience store when a woman approached her in the pre-dawn darkness. The woman pointed to a car neatly parked in a space on the lot with a gas can displayed next to it. She told Mrs. Shady that she had run out of gas and couldn't get to work and asked for money. Mrs. Shady gave the woman money but afterward got the nagging feeling that the scene had been staged and the woman's story fabricated. There was a good chance that the woman sets up shop at gas pumps all over town and begs for money all day every day. If you don't know for sure how can you not help somebody in need?

    You and your husband are fine people. Few would gone to such great lengths to bring about a positive resolution to the woman's problem. (I know that John and Helen Ettline would have.)

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    1. I know too well the fine line Mrs. Shady was walking. How can a person discern between true need and an utter sham? Too many people have gotten really good at lying these days. But, I agree- it's better to help someone who might not need it than ignore someone who actually does need it.

      It's an honor to be compared with Helen and John, truly!

      We pass by a man on the street every now and then holding up a sign that says, "Why lie? I need beer." At least he's being honest about his intentions...

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  3. Dear Shelly, I would have been thinking those same thoughts you were thinking. A person's moral reputation is a critical issue, especially when you are teaching children. Your husband's patience and compassion is so rare and beautiful that I don't have words. I'm so happy that when the light was shining on everyone, the truth emerged on its own.

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    1. Jenny: It's hard for me to remember sometimes when my name's taking a beating, but truth really does win in the end, always. I so hope that lady was able to use the truth to get justice. She deserves nothing less.

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  4. What an absolutely unusual story, but, my goodness, it just shows how things can get out of hand! I think I would certainly have been like you, in starting to get a little bit irritated about the whole thing, especially when the person from Church wallked by!! What a wonderful ending though, and what a little gem your husband is. Really enjoyed this story!

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  5. Thisisme: I'd lost all my good humor by the time we got to the courthouse, especially at the thought that not only was this going to be all over my school, but our church, too. I am so glad it turned out the way it did, odd as it was!

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  6. It's times like these that I'm sure you (like me) see even more how God has put the two of you together, to help each other through and keep our minds and hearts on what God wants you to do. What a man. He has such character, not only in keeping his cool, but in complete forgiveness and charity asking her to lunch.

    She also had to humble herself quite a bit to admit she was wrong, which also shows strong character.

    Have to comment on Shady's comment, we have had a scam going on in our parking lots around town, it happened to me two times, the first I have all the change I had, (it was a young boy about 12 or 13, stating his aunt was in the car with her little baby my youngest's age) I worried while I ran my quick errand and looked for them on the way out, to offer help, to drive them, but they were no where to be found. Then, it happened again in another parking lot, a month or so later, this time a young boy with a man--his father, and this time,I was more prepared and said, I'd gladly buy them gas, but had no change and would go get a gas can for them and fill it with gas, but they refused that....which shows there really was no need, right? I told the manager of the store, and he asked them to leave, in which they did, magically, they had enough gas to leave...

    OK, that had nothing to do with your story....sorry about that, can you see, I need adult conversation?

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    1. Jamie: Yes, he is quite the balance for me- I need it! And your story has everything to do with this. We want to help people, but so many are out there today just looking for ways to scam others (like the ones who scammed her) that the ones who really need the help often don't get it. You were wise to offer to get the gas- that's a sure way to see if they're telling the truth. If they refuse the actual thing they say they need, well then...

      You're such a good person for offering to help them like that.

      I'll bet your little sweet pea is growing like a weed. Can't wait to see when you post pics again- he's probably out of his newborn clothes already! Take care of yourself!

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  7. I am so happy you had a happy ending to that story...I hope Miss Beulah has one as well. More years ago than I care to count my parents were swindled by a gang of Gypsy's that came through the neighborhood posing as roofers. My Dad said he wasn't interested but they managed to strong arm his into agreeing into a reroofing on the flat roof addition to his home. It was a terrible job and even sent puddles of black tar through the roof into the bedroom below. They then threatened him and got him to drive to his bank where he was supposed to take out money at their demand. The bank VP was a life long friend and recognized my Dad's distress. She called the police and the ordeal ended. I hate that you and your loving and kind husband were put through that but I do think God had a hand in letting Miss Beulah know that while she was swindled there are still God loving people like you and your husband to be angels in her life.
    Blessings to you and your husband Shelly~

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    1. Oh, Sush, I so hate that your parents had to go through that. I've heard of people doing that with roofing jobs- how awful! I'm so glad the bank VP was there to help them out. There should be a special punishment (and there will be one day in eternity) for those who prey on the elderly.

      I really do hope Miss Beulah had a good outcome and the other fellow with my husband's name was brought to justice.

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  8. I love the two of you - you guys sound like a wonderful and blessed couple. sandie

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  9. Sandie: You are so sweet- thank you!

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  10. I can understand how you love your hubby, that was beautiful, and from a true Christian heart. You will always be remembered by that lady for your good actions, and I am sure you reconciled with her over lunch. I pray she finally did get the right person.

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  11. Crystal Mary: I am still praying for that precious woman. We did have an enjoyable lunch with her and her driver, and although we haven't heard from her, I really do hope all things turned out well for her and she received justice.

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  12. Yes, he's really a gem, Shelly! And so are you. I can't begin to imagine how frustrating that must have been for you. I'm glad it ended well for all concerned!

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    1. I really did learn a good lesson about kindness that day. And, I, too, am so glad that it ended as well as it did!

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  13. Your husband is a true, Godly, gentleman. What an act of kindness and compassion to take her to lunch after "all that". You're a sweetheart too, we gals just tend to worry more.

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    1. Sweet Tea: That he is! It is a woman thing, I think, to care more what others are thinking about us. I do need to get over that!

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  14. I've heard about these scams against the elderly. What an evil thing it is. It was too bad she kept getting you mixed up with the real culprits. That would be a stressful and inconvenient thing to go through. It is wonderful the lady knew she had made a mistake and you took her out to lunch. What a beautiful ending to your story. I'm sure she will never forget your kindness and forgiveness.

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    1. Belle: That poor lady. You could tell she didn't have much and this was really wearing on her. The fellow that scammed her needs to go to jail and I hope he did.

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  15. I don't know. I'm still not convinced you're not the painters!
    Of course, I am joking. That was a captivating story, and your husband is a gem.

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    1. Missed Periods: I'm thinking maybe that's the line of work we need to get into!

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  16. Oh, my goodness. What a story! This doesn't even seem real. It almost seems like a movie scene! How very, very nice of your husband to do that for her. I understand that you were upset, but now what a story you have to share. What a story of God's love. I love it. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  17. Kelley: Bless her heart- she just wouldn't listen at the beginning when we tried to give her the facts. It turned out really good in the end for us, but I felt so bad for her that she had to go through all of that.

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  18. Well, who wouldn't love a guy like that! :) Aren't you blessed? :)

    Great post, Shelly - and a good reminder to me to be patient when things don't seem to be working out well.

    Have a wonderful day - Marsha

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  19. Marsha: I am SO thankful for the blessings I have! Patience is a virtue I have to work on every day, all day.

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  20. Your personal frustration notwithstanding, this is a great story wonderfully told. And your man is a keeper.

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  21. Vanilla: That he is! Thank you!

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  22. This Ozark Farm Chick was just out blog hoppin' today and look what I found!!!

    This was a wonderful story sweetie and that man of yours is a real keeper!!!

    What a compassionate fella!!! Hold on to him tight sweetie.

    From the happy hills and hollers of the Missouri Ponderosa, ya'll have a most blessed and beautiful day!!! :o)

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  23. Nezzy: Thanks for the visit! You live in a beautiful part of the world, there- I'm headed over to yours right now.

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  24. Hey sweetie, thank you so much for droppin' by with your sweet comment and hoppin' on my blog. I sure hope ya'll enjoy the ride!

    God bless and in the words of that wacky old Granny Clampett, "ya'll come back now, ya hear???"

    Have a great afternoon friend! :o)

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  25. Hello, Dearest Shelly.
    Wow, I am proud of you having such a great man as your husband!!! He is such a warmhearted, reliable person; you are so blesse♡♡♡
    I feel a bit sorry for the lady and wishing that things got settled with her as well.
    Love and Lots of Hugs to you, xoxo Miyako*

    PS> whew, I'm back haha.

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    1. Dear friend Miyako- I'm so glad you are back! I really do count myself as incredibly blessed- and thankful. One of my blessings is having met you! I do hope your week is settling down. Take care of yourself!

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