During the past ten years or so in my life, even the last twenty years, I have had some steep learning curves. The past year and this present New Year have been no exception.
My latest lesson in life concerns not putting one’s own life in danger and thus one’s family in order to pay an old debt and it is also about honour and respect for others and knowing that everything happens for reasons known only to the power that guides us all. We should not trust in our fellow humans, but be guided by what is right and what should be.
It starts with an old debt that I owed someone, because I had to borrow money to pay for a get. This person went guarantor and I was working at the time. It was around $2,500 I think in 1992. I borrowed from a Credit Union at a fairly good rate of interest and there was no problem with the repayments for several years until I was overseas in Israel and not working. I should have paid it off before I left. That was my first mistake. Anyway to cut a long story short, I defaulted and my friend had to pay out money and received a bad credit rating. I never intended to happen. I felt horrified. Also around the late nineties a parent died who the friend was very close to this parent and friend blamed me for the parent’s death as the parent and friend had argued about the debt and later then the parent died of a heart attack.
I felt very bad about this and when I was back in Australia I attempted to pay back some of the money and it was close to $5,000 because there was interest and legal fees. I was also dealing with some difficult situations with my now ex-husband at the time. I was also pregnant and dealing with a very anti Semitic principal in Narrandera and my own father had died, I was dealing with disputes in my family and petty jealousies and a very anti Semitic sister in law whom I was really glad lives in America, not Australia.
Later when I was bullied out of teaching after a transfer to a school run by a Principal who was an old colleague and a good mate of the Narrandera principal, I came down to Melbourne in an effort to try and heal, get work and get on with my life. I had very little to do with the friend except for a rather abusive phone call 15 minutes before the Jewish Shabbat came in and when the friend would not listen to me that we should continue this conversation at another time, I wished this person ‘Shabbat Shalom’ and said ‘We have to discuss this, but not now.’ and then hung up. I did not blame the person who had every right to feel hurt. I also heard back through mutual acquaintances and friends that it was being put about that I owed this person $10,000 and then it was $20,000. I spoke to the person recently about this and the comment I received was that when a Sandfly bites you, you often say it is worst than it is.
Anyway just recently, I had a phone call and this person asked me to do some editing. We agreed on a price and the bulk of the money $1,500 was to go towards the old debt. I was to receive $500 in cash and there was an offer of a bonus of $250 as it was quite pressured. I even put some of my work at school aside to do this. I saw it as a sign from Hashem that I could kill two birds with one stone. Pay back an old debt and to earn some money towards rent before the New Year. There is an hourly rate for editing and there is a page rate. We agreed on a page rate, rather than an hourly rate. I now know over the last few days that this friend had no intention of paying me money.
I worked for around 25 to 30 hours on this text and did grammatical editing, as well as editing for meaning and clarity on sentences that were awkward or lacked specific meaning. Often the author knows what it means, but the meaning is obscure or hidden from other readers. Also the document was single spaced and I was told to leave the mark ups as “I have paid heaps for that mark-up” and to do mine in different colour. I did so and then was told it was too difficult as the person was dyslexic and to do it simply as a word document and so it went on. My big mistake was not to set out a formal contract which I am sure this person may not have agreed to because then the person would have been bound by the contract. Instructions changed from day to day and I re-edited and kept my cool when said person was obviously not cool and I focussed on getting the work done. I did work to the dead line which was originally my deadline as given. I had the whole text done on the Tuesday before Rosh Hashana as my original deadline was 30th of September. That would have been impossible as Rosh Hashana started on the 28th of September. However the person wanted this much done on the weekend before school broke up and I was trying to juggle school, child and this editing commitment at the same time. So I did what I could.
The person was happy that I had finished the work with a few hitches before hand and finally we got it all in on the Tuesday, well before the original deadline. I was not worried about the money coming in because I thought this person is a friend and she must understand how difficult it is to be a single parent and that I have been in very severe financial straits since I was bullied out of teaching. Anyway I trusted rather too quickly. When I asked for the money I was ignored and when I asked again I was wished a Gamar Chatima Tova and at my latest request when I outlined the difficulties I will face without money like homelessness and possible eviction from my flat, but by the same token I do not have hard feelings against the person whether they pay or not, I was thanked for my wisdom and I could feel the smirk behind the email. When you are confronted with someone who is acting in an intensely evil way despite what they should be doing, you have to be calm and trust that G-D will help you. It is a lesson in patience and faith. Even if I am to end up on the street with my son and nothing in my pocket it is a true lesson in faith ultimately. In order to really understand G-D one must have no attachment to material possessions except for the connivances that they present in order to fulfil the will of G-D. Torah is the ultimate guide and I remember one day at this Christian boarding School St Margarets in Brisbane when I was twelve and they constantly got me to write out whole tracts of bible, the King James Version and I refused to believe in JC thus refused to write out New Testament. Instead, I wrote out psalms and tracts of the Old Testament because that was far more interesting and had deeper wisdom than some repetitive ramblings by a bunch of confused and disorientated followers of a Jew who was crucified by Roman soldiers. I also identified strongly with the book of Job. The Old Testament remained with me to the extent that at my new boarding School in Warwick I was the only senior student who did not read the Bible to the school in my Year. I think they knew I was not a Christian even though I went to a Christian School. I was considered to have strange ideas and to dabble in blasphemy. How that came about is another story not relevant to this one.
To end off – in my haste to pay off my debt to this person, I have jeopardised my home with my son and I know that I know have the tricky task of trying to placate a real estate agent knowing I will be nearly ten days late with all my rent. I must make everything formal and invoices. Even then it will not protect me against such a person as this. I think this person has some long standing jealousy or issues with me that go back years. I do not understand why. This person has always been financially stable and never had to worry about money. I, on the other hand, have had ups and downs financially and trouble managing finances for the past five years while being unemployed and even before, I have never been a good money manager. I hate dealing with money and prefer to earn it and let others manage it.
We live and we learn.