A Lesson in Humility
The road of life has never been easy. I have long struggled with health issues, some of them that brought me close to death. However, in the midst of all the struggles, even when living deep, DEEP in the steamy jungles of Liberia, West Africa, we never went without a meal and we have managed to always pay our bills.
Now, I tend to be the kind of person who likes things to be a certain way. In the early years of our marriage, life was difficult on many levels. This was especially true when it came to finances. We can remember having to determine whether we wanted to live off of rice and beans or macaroni and ground beef in order to purchase necessities for our babies.
It seemed that every time we managed to save just a little that another big bill would show up. I was already working two jobs (1 full-time, and 1 part-time) for about 65 hours per week just to make ends meet. My wife and I only had one vehicle and still only have one to this day, but we were thankful that our situation was much better than most of the world.
Ok, let’s rewind to that last sentence and try to clarify.
You see, while I was working as a word processing specialist in the day, and then loading boxes into big trucks at all hours, I was NOT actually being very thankful. However, my wife was thankful because it allowed her to be a stay-at-home mom.
One incident that remains me to this day is just as clear as if it had just happened. The main reason is probably because it helped me to adjust my attitude on life.
In approximately 1991 or 1992, we lived in the US state of North Carolina. We were hoping to purchase a little home, but could never seem to save up enough to even pay our monthly bills.
One hot August day, we took our station wagon (an estate for UK readers) to the mechanic and learned it was going to take about $400 to make necessary repairs. That was a lot of money in the early 90’s and we had only managed to just save up about $500 or $600 in the bank account.
Going to my bank, I pulled up to the ATM Cash Machine while muttering under my breath about how unfair life was treating us. Ok, another confession, my wife was sitting beside me with our babies in the back, but I was actually complaining about how unfair life was treating me.
I took out my wallet, grabbed my ATM card and jammed it into the machine. In a careless manner, I punched in my PIN code and waited.
The machine hummed and whirred and then spit my card back out. On the screen, the words “ERROR — INVALID CODE” appeared.
Already frustrated, I verified the PIN code with my wife and jammed the card back into the machine. Slowly, with great deliberation, and muttering quite profusely, I slowly entered my PIN once again.
The machine hummed and whirred and then spit my card back out. On the screen, the words “ERROR — INVALID CODE” appeared again.
By now, I was quite furious. Life was going downhill once again and I could not even access my bank account.
The sun was setting low in the sky and I had a lucid moment and thought that maybe a reflection on the machine was not allowing my PIN code to go through.
Putting the car in Park, I stepped out of my vehicle and stood close to the machine. I had the presence of mind to know that if you entered the PIN code incorrectly three times in quick succession that the machine would swallow your card. This would have created an even bigger headache as it was almost 5pm on a Friday evening.
Not so carefully and with only a cursory glance at my card, I jammed it into the machine for my third and final attempt while muttering about stupid banks and how they conspired to keep my money just when I needed it the most.
Quicker than Jack being nimble while jumping over the candlestick, I mashed the CANCEL button for all that I was worth. The machine whirred and hummed before FINALLY reluctantly spitting out my card.
With my wife sitting quite calmly in her seat watching me, I waved my card at her as she just laughed. I am sure she was laughing WITH me and not AT me, but I suddenly felt very, VERY foolish when I realized that the card in my hand was NOT my debit card.
It was my Driver’s License!
North Carolina had recently introduced a magnetic stripe on the back and with the sun’s bright glare I had mistaken my driver’s license for my debit card. Yes, that is the story that I am sticking with — it MUST have been the sun!
Even to this day, almost 20 years later, I still keep my driver’s license together in my wallet with my debit cards. Every time I pull up to an ATM machine, I never fail to remember the story of how I had to be taught a lesson in humility.
Since that time, we have moved to England twice, to Liberia, West Africa, and now reside permanently in the USA. Through the years, that experience has helped me to realize how truly blessed my family and I have been. Never hungry and richer in so many ways more than the vast majority of the world, I know that I need to take time to assess each situation that we encounter.
Is it really worth getting angry or upset when God has been so good to me?
Does my life have to be in such a hurry that I cannot take enough time to verify which card I am trying to put into the ATM?
If I am in that much of a hurry, then there are probably other things wrong in my mind and heart that need to be dealt with.
My life may not be what I was hoping when I was younger. My bank accounts will probably never reflect the savings I wish they had. My car may not be the best, biggest, or fastest. However, what I have is far more than I deserve.