This (law)suit doesn’t really fit me.

In the end, I just couldn’t do it. I had written my multiple letters of intent to file a lawsuit — the last letter having been sent via regular mail, email, and registered letter, and with verbiage supplied by a lawyer and accompanied with the applicable Oregon State statues being violated. I had readied myself, I had asked the advice of many, all of whom were incredible supportive and reassuring that I was totally in the right, and that the person I was filing against did indeed legally owe me for 107 of unpaid work. The case was simple. I had a broken contract. I had email discussions, phone messages, text messages. I had proof that I was owed $800 in back pay. There wasn’t even the slightest bit of gray area to wonder about. I was totally, legitimately in the right, and deserved every penny I was asking for.

But I just couldn’t do it. I just could not file a lawsuit against a single mother; a single mother that clearly did not have any money to give me even if she cared about paying me. I just could not file a lawsuit demanding $800 from a single mother who didn’t have the money, one week before Christmas.

Does this make me the weak pushover I’ve always hated myself for being? Is this proof–once again–that I just can’t stand up for myself and demand the respect I deserve and have earned? I don’t know. Maybe. Does it matter what this says about me? No. Because in the end, there was no way I would be able to feel comfortable about myself if I carried through with it. I have several bills that are overdue. I don’t know where my next Jeep payment is going to come from, and it’s due next week. I don’t have enough money to buy a full tank of gas. But for some reason I would have felt disgusting in getting money this way.

I put a lot of thought into this decision, and it all came down to trust and faith. Over this past year and a half, my life, if you charted it out and looked at it on paper, has looked kind of pathetic. I don’t have a “real” job; I work for myself and pay my bills with as much writing and childcare and other odds-and-ends (sometimes to a higher degree of income than other times) that I can get. My marriage is still kind of a cluster–a steady cluster, perhaps, but a cluster of slow, tedious, and painful reconstruction). I don’t really have many friends that I spend time with. I have a great family and dozens and dozens of awesome people that I can count on in a second in a time of need, but I still spend a lot of time by myself (which I don’t mind, but still). And every week I wonder if I’m going to have any money to carry into the next. But when I think about my life off paper; when I think about how I feel about my life and my struggles during the past year, I would be hard pressed to complain at all. I love my life. It can absolutely be better–my relationship with my wife most obviously, and steadier work wouldn’t be bad–but more often than not, I consider myself the luckiest bastard alive. Did I waste 107 hours, or was I able to give 107 hours of my life to a 3 1/2 – year old boy who who I adored, and who adored me, and who was better off spending that time with me than some texting teenage babysitter who doesn’t know the first thing about nurturing a child’s growth?

So when it comes to that $800 that I earned (and that kept me from being able to spend my time working elsewhere), it came down to my trust and faith in God. I know many, many acquaintances that probably consider my whole “God thing” kinda silly; another swath of my personality that is off-beat, corny, and lacks the intellectualism that I carry into other elements of my life. That’s fine, really. I know they don’t treat me like a freak show because of it. It’s just something that they probably makes them want to tousle my hair and send me on my way. But truth being told, without my childlike faith and absolute trust in God, there’s no way I would be sitting here writing this. What I’ve experienced in my 36 years, and especially over this past year, is nothing short of miraculous. I can now live a life with no anxiety. No real fear, disappointment, loneliness, anger, resentment, or self-pity. Sure, I absolutely still experience all of these things–I am still human and I’m still can be quite the basket case if I’m not careful (just ask my shrink). But those are things I choose to feel if and when I lose my trust and my faith in God.

The bottom line is, do I really trust and have faith that God is taking care of me if I don’t get that $800? What I “trusting” that God would allow this person to come to their right mind and decide to pay me? Yes. Was I believing in my faith that the “right” thing would happen and I wouldn’t have to struggle without that money? Probably. But that money was due to me in June and August. I’m still not homeless, I still haven’t gone hungry, I still haven’t been sent to bill collectors. I have been taken care of at every step. I have been provided everything I need — even if I haven’t been given everything I necessarily want. I selfishly wanted that person who treated my like garbage and treated me like I am not worth the money I work for to be taken to task. I wanted to show her how wrong and awful she was being. But that is not living in trust and faith. In 40 years, I will remember being so blessed by learning about faith and trust through this far more than receiving a measly $800 that I probably would have wasted on Christmas presents that don’t matter. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t buy ya’ll Christmas presents this year. Sorry about that.)

After I thought and prayed and wrestled with what I was going to do about filing this lawsuit– after I filled out all the paperwork, got council to proceed in the correct legal fashion–and deciding against pursuing it, I got a call. The person on the phone said she had received an anonymous call from someone who goes to my church that saw that I was struggling a bit with an overdue medical bill, and wanted to pay it for me. I have no idea who this person or family is, or why they chose me when there are so many other families with children and more bills that could use it. This happened the day after I decided to let go of that $800. Most people I know would point out–and rightly so–that this isn’t any proof of faith. They’d be correct, of course. Faith and the scientific method does not exist on the same plain at all. But I don’t care. I have 36 years of seeing this type of “coincidence” in my life, and the lives of literally hundreds of people I know. Does this mean that if I wouldn’t have gotten that phone call to cover my medical bill, that God wasn’t blessing my faith? Of course not. Me surviving and living and having a life I love and people I love is the proof that I’m loved and blessed by God-not my bank account or lack thereof.

I know this isn’t quite the LOLercoaster ride that usually typifies my writing, but I just felt like I needed to write this. Not just because it’s getting close to Christmas, but because the subject of faith, trust, and a loving God is one of extreme importance to me, and I need to talk about it more. (And truth be told, I can’t afford my shrink this month, and I didn’t have anyone to specifically tell, so I’m tucking this away in the corner of the internet and pretending I had this conversation in real life, and not on the internet.)

If you made it this far, thanks. I hope you can find the different ways that God has blessed you, even if you are wishing for His blessings in a different way than you are receiving it. But if you have a child, you’ll know that sometimes the best way to love your child is a different way than your child perhaps wants. And I’m sure glad I have a Father who knows that.


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13 Responses to This (law)suit doesn’t really fit me.

  1. Darla Westenberg says:

    1,000 Blessings, a book that has changed my life. Enjoy and be thankful for each moment, slow down the fast pace, get back to the place we are meant to be. Your blog blesses me, you are in the right frame. Love you Todd. Darla

  2. sid wind says:

    Good job Todd. I appreciate your faith, and candor. Its refreshing. Stay tough.

  3. Thanks, Sid! Great to hear from you! I ended up chatting a bit with Jenn Gutierrez/Hayes tonight too. It’s like flashback hour 😀

  4. Lois says:

    I think you made the right decision.
    I still think of you whenever I see our Rubix Cube.

    Lois Veenstra

  5. Dan says:

    I remember when you were trying to decide on following through with the suit (you posted on Facebook and there was a thread of conversation). Did anything end up happening with the single mother since you did not follow through with the suit? Just curious of the outcome, as it’s not often to hear the outcome of (actual) noble and/or faithful decisions.

    • After I wrote the article, I sent the link to the mother with a (admittedly way too snarky) email that said, “I guess you win.”

      She ended up writing me back, and she told me that yes, she was avoiding me because she couldn’t afford to pay me, and she was humiliated and embarrassed, and the support checks from the dad weren’t coming in (all of which I’m pretty sure are true). I told her I really, really wished she would have just been upfront with me, because I really felt terrible she didn’t trust me to just forgive her of the debt, which I totally would have done. I’m not going to take money from someone with a child who needs it, especially when it’s “only” $800. We sort of hashed stuff out a bit, and she promised to pay some day (which, of course, I’m not counting on, but it was nice of her to say, I guess). I dropped her an email one other time just to see how the child was doing, but other than that, I don’t hear from her (and she unfriended me from Facebook, which is a bummer, so I don’t even get to see pictures of the kid growing up).

      So as far as outcomes, I felt really good about how it played out, and it gave her a chance to do a mea culpa and say she was sorry. It’d be nice to have the cash, especially since that missed check meant I had to go without health insurance for 6 months, but I guess worse could have happened…

  6. What a wonderful post! I do not believe in these “coincidences” either, and God truly took care of you! You might enjoy the movie The Secret, which explains how when you emit positive energy and thoughts into the world, good happens to you. (There is a book as well, but in this case only, I believe the movie is better.)

  7. Wendy says:

    Made it this far.

    Is it weird for me to say that I’m proud of you, even though we’ve never even met? Thanks for writing this post. I’m appreciating learning more about you as I peruse your blog. These are lessons of someone who has been broken, humbled, and who is on the road toward healing and wholeness. To be able to accept that things aren’t perfect, but that life can still be good is very liberating.

  8. Thanks, Wendy. I appreciate the kind words. I can’t tell you how much those last two sentences encourage me!

  9. Carin Sherman says:

    I love this. I love that I know you and hear your heart in every word of this. I love that you pour into our kids each Sunday (who so look forward to seeing you each week). I am in awe of how you handled this unfortunate ending to this relationship/job. I was juggling this and blogging:

    while you juggled this. It’s so eye opening to me how each of carry our own stories, struggles and revelations. We all walk next to each other, smile and greet each other not knowing what the other is battling. I am so inspired by your choice, action and full circle in your description and experience in this time in your life.

    Honored to know you.
    Carin Sherman

  10. Wow. Thank you so much for the kind words, Carin. I was just reading through that blog, and your story is absolutely amazing. It’s so great how we can see the thread of God through all of our stories. So much comes down to gratitude and perspective, which is so hard to do in the moment – but it sounds like you have that in spades 🙂

    Thanks again for the kind words!

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