My wife and I went to church online last week. We’ve been doing that since COVID-19 showed up. Our church is having live meetings now, but not yet on Saturday evening, so we go online.
I tell you all that to add veracity to the story I’m about to share, which I heard “in church.” In fact this story is not widely known. I was fortunate to hear it, and now you will hear it from me.
It all begins with COVID-19, as so many stories these days do. In this case the pandemic caused a company to cancel its Christmas party in 2020. For Ramsey Solutions and its 900 employees, that was a big deal.
Every employee and their family looks forward to the Christmas party, which has become part of their culture. The boss gives nice gifts, but that isn’t the most important thing. The company comes together, the family ties deepen, and they rejoice in the good they have done. So you can imagine the disappointment when the “no party” announcement was made.
Dave Ramsey, founder and CEO, wondered what he could give his employees to make up for it. And then he had an idea.
Ramsey is in the business of helping others with their money. His company teaches people to manage money better, they teach them to save, and they teach people how to get out of debt.
Dave had to learn all that himself, having made more than $1,000,000 by the time he was 26 and then losing it all. He’s been there, and he knows how it feels.
Now he has made it all back, and a lot more. But he never stops giving and he never stops finding ways to help others with their finances.
Because Dave has lived through deep debt, he understands the emotions that come with it. If you’ve ever had a creditor call you to collect on a debt of some kind, you know it too.
So Dave Ramsey got hold of a collection agency and bought the debt of 8,000 people, without their knowledge. I don’t know what the total amount of the debt was, but I’m certain Ramsey negotiated with the agency and bought it for only a portion of the full amount.
In fact the collection agency would have done the same thing with the credit card companies and car dealers and mortgage brokers that were owed money. Collection agencies buy debt at a reduced rate and try to collect more than they paid. That’s how they make money, and some of them put a lot of pressure on the debtors.
Whatever the total original debt was, Dave Ramsey paid $10,000,000 for it. The money came from his foundation.
You might wonder what that has to do with his employees. Just this: the gift he gave them all was a list of names and phone numbers of people whose debt had been purchased.
They got to call those people and give them the good news, “Your debts are forgiven.” Wow!
My wife and I talked about that and wondered how a typical conversation might have gone.
“I’m with Ramsey Solutions, and we have purchased the debt you owed to a collection agency. We are forgiving that debt, so you are debt free.”
“What? Who is this really? Is this a joke? This can’t be true. Are you kidding?”
”I assure you, Mr. Smith, you are debt free.”
And then the caller hears tears or laughter or shouting as a release of emotional energy fills the telephone line.
What an incredible gift to give to his employees! And yes, it was a pretty nice gift for those whose debt was forgiven, too.
Cynics might say, “That’s nice, and it was a lot of money, but Dave Ramsey is filthy rich so it’s not that big a deal.”
Which shows that they don’t get the point. But I’ll come back to that.
Those same people often add, “If I was rich I’d give away a lot of money too.” In fact I had someone say that to me a long time ago when a group of us were discussing financial gifts. So I asked him a simple question.
“What are you doing with the money you have now?”
He replied that he needed almost all he had for living, for feeding his family, and so on. I told him I completely understood that, but then I added this. “What you are doing with what you have now is what you would do if you had more, even if it was a million dollars.”
Generosity is a wonderful way to do good, but true generosity has to be learned.
Dave Ramsey lives generously. His employees watch him and learn. I watched my father live generously, and I learned. You can learn to be generous, and you can learn to be stingy. Choose your teachers wisely.
Let me return to the point of the gift that the cynics missed. Dave Ramsey gave unbounded joy to his employees. He did not give them money. “He gave money to the others,” you say. No, he did not. He gave them peace and relief and freedom. He gave them opportunity.
Generosity does not require wealth, it requires heart.
Take a peek at your heart and see if you find generosity. Look closely at your life, not just your finances, and see if there is love for others there. Think about your day yesterday, and also about your day tomorrow.
Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” When I first read that I was too busy living to do any examining. Now that I am older I see the value in examination, and a generosity checkup is part of that. You can do that, too, and you will find it valuable.
Do you want to do good? Live generously. The joy is amazing, just like Christmas all year long.