A Stand-up Guy


This is my little buddy, Spud. I met him shortly after I got down here to Alabama to help my mom and dad when Dad was dying. In fact, Spud was here the night Dad died.

He was 19 when we met and now he’s 21. We’re friends and not a romantic couple. I do love him very much though and he’s helped me get through some rough times since I’ve been down here in Alabama. We have a lot of laughs together.

There’s a piece to our friendship that is very much in acknowledgement of our age difference. In fact, his nickname for me is Da (the name Irish boys call their fathers). I call him Spud. It’s the nickname I gave him. I don’t even think “Austin” when I look at him anymore.

I could write a whole lot about my friendship with Spud, even to include a couple of rough spots we’ve had along the way. But in about ten minutes I’m going to be asleep whether I want to or not so I’d like to finish the blog before that happens.

I’m writing this blog to brag on Spud a little bit.

Here’s what happened: I lent him my truck while his car was in the shop last week. I had my motorcycle and Mom’s car to drive. While parking my truck in the parking deck at his work (Alabama Power in Birmingham), he crashed into the back of another truck and smushed in my rear door on the passenger side. Y’all know how I feel about my truck.

Spud works hard. He is a very conscientious student at the University of Alabama and spends his Summers working hard at his Summer job. He didn’t mean to crash my truck of course. I hate when bad things happen to good people.

He said right away he would fix the truck. When we got the estimate back, it was about triple what I expected. From the sound of the life exiting his lungs when I told him how much, I got the feeling Spud was expecting much less as well. I felt so bad for him. I decided that I would call my insurance company and see about filing a claim with them. I knew that my premiums would go up but as I said, I love Spud, and I wanted to help him if I could. I was willing to take the hit.

When Adam split with everything he left me broke after we had worked for a common financial goal for seven years. I had also bought half his rental property and since there was no paperwork or no legal marriage, he walked with that too without ever looking back. When he did that, he turned my financial world upside down. I was looking for any place I could to cut costs. I don’t even remember doing this but I apparently called and reduced my insurance coverage to just liability, the minimum amount required by law. My plan for Spud to just pay the deductible was a no-go.

I broke the bad news to Spud and he just said, “I’ll pay for it. It’s the right thing to do.” I asked him if he had that kind of money (without wanting to pry into his finances at all.) He said he did and I have to admit I was impressed. I didn’t have that kind of money when I was a 21 year-old college student! I drank every extra penny I had. He could tell I was sort of surprised. He said, “I work hard and I save my money.” Jesus. I’ve just been schooled by a man 30 years my junior! I felt both inadequate and inspired. He just gave me another big impetus to continue this work to fix, once and for all, the underearning problem.

Spud could probably have gone to his parents to ask for help with this– but he’s choosing to take care of it on his own. He made the decision to be a man and deal with the consequences of his actions. I can’t tell you how proud I am of him.

His willingness, to me, is enough. I’d love nothing more than to say to him, “I appreciate your being a stand-up guy and for your willingness to take care of this. I remember what it’s like to be a college student. I’m going to take care of the cost.” That’s the life I want to be living. But the reality is that I’m not in a position to do that. I have given $10,000 to charity since I made one student loan payment. That, my friends, no matter how generous and kind-hearted it may seem, is financial immaturity. Similarly I’ve probably given away 10,000 hours of my time in the past ten years without ever even thinking to ask to be paid for it. If I had managed better, I could have done for my friend today, as I would like to have done.

It’s smarts. I don’t like it. I’m not going to like it. My only choice is to learn from it. Quoth the Marine Corps: “Pain retains.”

I’d like to think I’ve taught my little buddy a thing or two over the past year and a half. Today, he was definitely the one doing the teaching.

See y’all tomorrow.

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