Monday, March 24, 2014

Debt of Honor

Debt is an ugly word. I have never much liked it.

The thing about debt is, it's supposed to be paid. I pay enough without throwing any extras at myself.

The ever lovely Jeffe (By the way, PING!) talked of debt load. I loathe those words, too, especially when they are put together that way. All I can see in my mind is some poor sap carrying a massive platform over his shoulders and trying not to pickle, much like Atlas doing is best to shoulder the weight of the world.

I see it that way because I was almost crushed by debt load once. When my wife's health started going south we did our absolute best to stay ahead of the medical bills and the loss of her wages when she had to stay home, as well as the prohibitive cost of insuring two diabetics. "It wasn't always easy" is a wee bit of an understatement; much as "The Grand Canyon is kind of a deep hole" does;t quite cover the proper scope.

Before it was all said and done, my wife went on disability. It was eighteen months before the situation was properly settled. Here's a fun fact: Social Security wants to make sure the folks on it aren't milking the system. Oh, to be sure depending on how close you are to election time you will hear politicians aplenty roaring about the fraudulent abuse of the system by the disenfranchised and the lazy, but the fact is it took a year and a half before we saw the first penny of the monies my wife had been paying into since she got her first job at the age of fifteen.

Guess what didn't take eighteen months?  If your answer is the phone calls from people who wanted to get their money from us, you are a winner (Sorry, I'm a writer. I don't have the money to offer cash prizes.).

Long story short, we were obligated to declare bankruptcy after trying to work out a way to consolidate and manage our "debt load."

One last aspect of this and I'll move on. The most amazing thing to me was how incredibly hostile the debt collectors got and how suddenly, mysteriously, they became friendly when bankruptcy was declared. All of those fine folks who'd been growling and making noises changed their tunes and suddenly wanted to work things out when the B-Word got put in place.

Like them, we took no prisoners.

The thing is, the part that makes me scratch my head even now, I would have spent 30 years doing my best to crawl under a fairly small debt with 22-28% interest being tacked onto it with regularity.

The lesson for me,by the way, is that I should not use and/or misuse credit cards. I'll just muster through without.

That was a long time ago. Since then my wife has passed away and I have done a much better job of not screwing up my monthly payments more than absolutely necessary.

Still, I hate the idea of owing anyone anything.

It sticks in my craw, as they say down here. There is nothing pleasant about it.

On the other kind of debt, the one I meant to talk about, I have a different philosophy. I try to be an honorable man and that means I try to pay my debts of honor. Sometimes that means something as simple as allowing an occasional handshake contract and making sure I follow through on my end and sometimes it means something as profoundly complex as keeping my word, regardless of the consequences. Anyone that does't understand how that can be profoundly complex has either managed to dodge a few bullets or is currently living a blessed life.

Mostly it means I try to keep my deadlines. I succeed more often than I fail.

As I am still under the wire on one novel rewrite and two short stories (plus a few novels I need to actually write first drafts of) this is the end of my sermon for the week.

Except to say this: it's easier to sleep when you are an honorable person. The burden of guilt is at least as heavy as the average debt-load in my eyes.

James A. Moore


  1. Your last line says it all. It takes a strong person to be honorable.