by Rev. Peter Connolly

Have you ever felt yourself in a kind of vortex where one piece of bad news — or one unsavory development– seems inexorably to another and another until you don’t know where the madness will end?  As the comic says, “Well, I have.”  In fact, I’ve felt caught up in such a vortex all month.

We’ll skip the whole COVID episode (though even post-COVID has its challenges).  And we’ll leave the car crash for another time.  (Painful.)  The vortex I’m thinking about is a financial one.  A financial drain, so to speak.  It all started when I couldn’t find the checks I thought I’d brought with me from the credit union in Bowling Green, Kentucky.  But I could find a half-dozen of the “introductory” checks financial institutions give you when you open up a checking account.  “Ah ha!” I said, “I’ll use these up while I’m waiting for TFCU to deliver the checks associated with my new account.”  (They arrived three weeks late, by the way, because the clerk used my Bowling Green address and checks don’t get forwarded, and I had to order them a second time.)

So, I wrote out a check for $95 to the man who takes care of my lawn in Kentucky and who mulched leaves during the month of November.  And a check for $39 to Kohl’s for a pair of jeans.  And a check for $1.25 to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for a toll because I don’t have “EZ Pass.”  None of the checks was accepted as valid, though — they were all returned for “insufficient funds.”  Because?  Because the account had been compromised years ago and closed out and a new account opened in its place, and I’d forgotten about the whole incident, disturbing as it was at the time.  So, my clever little ploy to use “introductory” checks to pay my bills till the “real” checks arrived backfired.  Kohl’s wanted a $15 late payment.  The check for lawn care bounced to the tune of a $19 penalty and, most sickeningly, the $1.25 toll suddenly cost me $26.25.  Furious?  You bet.  Angry at the creditors, angry at myself.  There seemed to be only two responses: “You’re an idiot!” or “I’m an idiot!”  Neither one very helpful.  But the episode (which may still be ongoing– we shall see) got me thinking.

At some point, the incident, or series of incidents, will be in the past.  It will be something I don’t think about or think about only rarely.  It will get folded into the memories of a lifetime.  It might even make for a funny story.  So, why postpone the relief?  Why hang on to the anguish?  There’s pain, a sense of being victimized (even if only self-victimized), a sense that “life is unfair,” the frustration that rises when regret does nothing to change the present.  But it takes a while for the emotions to clear.

So, when you find yourself in a similar predicament somewhere down the road, as you may, think of this story and laugh.  The self-inflicted indignities of others helps put our own indignities into perspective.  (I’m just hoping that I didn’t use one of those introductory checks to pay my January pledge to the church.)

Spring is coming.  See you in church,

Rev. Peter

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