Here we were with two young children, one busted knee, one belligerent Tahoe, and one income.

My husband drives a beat-up white Tahoe that’s showing its age. It’s a second-generation hand-me-down—a cheap blessing. It pulls its weight on the pavement, but it’s starting to let him down in the dirt.

When driven off-road, “Tiny” behaves like a toddler trying to keep up with the big kids at the park. My husband has forced a big job on this little engine out of necessity; it’s only a matter of time before it takes a tumble.

We would have purchased a vehicle better suited for this abuse last year if it weren’t for our community group. “The Advisory Board” is the name my husband’s coworkers have coined for it. They scoff at the idea that our decisions are influenced by a group of friends we meet with weekly. Amused, my husband recalls their laughter.

“They said we should ditch our friends and go get a new truck.”

We both laugh, and then fall silent. I wonder if the same scenes are replaying in both of our minds.

Our growing family brought about a change in health insurance after I left my full-time job. Hours of research on the health care options available to us resulted in high premiums, a high deductible, and feelings of anger.

“Well, we can look for a better plan before we have more kids,” I said.

Then my son surprised us, arriving just 13 months after I had first become a mother. That, coupled with my husband’s trampoline accident, left us in disbelief and disarray. Here we were with two young children, one busted knee, one belligerent Tahoe, and one income.

Before the second child arrived, before the medical bills started rolling in, the eight members of our weekly group were sitting in our cozy living room that somehow housed enough chairs for that many adults. The clock loomed over us like an hourglass; the conversation was as still as the air in the room. Our daughter was fast asleep in the next room, barely two months old and immune to our troubles.

“I really need a truck.”

My husband’s voice was growing desperate, trying to justify this big decision. Calm voices responded to our pleas.

“Can you buy one with cash?” Not a new one.

“One that’s used?” It won’t last.

What we wanted desperately to hear was, “Go ahead. Take out a loan. Get the truck you need.”

Instead we heard no, spoken with finality and tenderness.

Later we followed our friends into the front yard with softening hearts. The darkness made it easier to say goodbye without revealing the hurt on our faces. We were hurt because we knew they were right. Our greed and discontentment had followed us out the front door, and it felt like garbage tainting our perfect, manicured lawn.

Our friends had shed light on what the darkness was cloaking, and there was nothing left for us to do but to leave our trash on the curb for the whole neighborhood to see.

Two months later we got our “truck”—in the form of a pregnancy test that showed two pink lines on a stick.

I wouldn’t trade this small group of friends for the finest truck in the world. Their wisdom saved us from taking on major debt in the face of the unknown: a pregnancy sooner than expected, knee surgery, and a stack of bills.

Our beat-up old Tahoe may be on display for all to see, but our hearts and homes are full of the encouragement that living in community brings. These are our people; they know the good and the bad, and they love us enough to help us take out our trash.

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What a wonderful and spot-on story of how all of us can be a neighbor to others, even when it doesn't seem to fit the classic definition of doing that.

Would that the 21st North American society have much more of this.  It is far more powerful than federal funding of this or that program, or even the "community development" work done by large non-profits.

I have found that good friends, friends that care about each other, are quite willing to give good advice, whether they are Christian or not.  Being Christian doesn’t make people more financially responsible than those who aren’t.  There are many success orientated Christians who are no more responsible than people outside the church.  And there are plenty of just plain foolish Christians, in wanting things that are beyond a responsible financial reach.  Sounds like the situation in this story.  Perhaps your husband’s friends at work, because there wasn’t a bond of closeness, simply were willing to tell him what he wanted to hear.  Of course, you don’t identify your “good advice giving friends” as being Christians, so perhaps you are saying the same thing as I’m suggesting.  Being and having good friends comes with great reward.