July 28-31, 1970
Nate and I were learning that taking on a pet was a bigger commitment than we thought… especially a dog. We were both keen on keeping commitments in general, and part of that was doing the work connected to them. Tossing that to someone else made it their commitment, and that’s what we’d done to Mom and Dad with sweet Baron.
But we tabled those thoughts to tend to more urgent matters: selling the Mustang, finding an economical vehicle, studying hard, and running Nate’s paper route. This job, which began with such promise, had morphed into a disaster. Though Nate had faithfully made his deliveries, never missing a day, he hadn’t made a nickel.
At the end of the first week, his boss told him something he had probably purposely withheld: payment would come only as his customers paid him. At the office he showed Nate how to hand-write the bills on a payment envelope and band them to the papers once a week.
The problem was, virtually none of his customers actually paid. He had to walk up to each house, usually at dinner time when people were home, and plead for the money. It didn’t take long to learn that once a product had been received, a buyer was reluctant to pay for it.
This felt even worse than failing to sell pots and pans. After all, the people on his paper route had already agreed to buy the product. Worst of all, Nate had had to pay up front for all the newspapers, purchasing each bundle before going on his route. He also had to pay for the required rubber bands, and these expenses had up-ended our meager budget.
One evening after delivering papers every day for almost 4 weeks, he returned empty from another bill-collecting trip. His frustration had reached the boiling point, and he erupted. “I’m basically giving the gift of a free Courier subscription to each one of my customers – every week!” He stomped back and forth in his own protest march while venting his anger. “And then they slam doors in my face when I ask them to pay what they owe!”
“Well,” I said, trying to be positive, “you’ve collected $70 so far. At least that’s something.”
“But that went toward paying for papers and rubber bands!” he said. “And my boss is mad, because we’re still in the hole with him.” Nate was right, of course. It was a big mess.
In one last effort to lift his spirits I said, “Well, we may be poor, but at least we’re happy.”
Even as I said it, we both knew it was only half true. But there was one genuinely hopeful development – the Mustang. People were responding to our ad, several had come to see it, and two seemed almost ready to buy. “Maybe we can get a bidding war going over our polluted little car,” I said, hoping Nate would laugh at such an absurdity.
But he didn’t even smile.
“Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)