His name was “Beans”.
I don’t know what his real name was. That’s all I knew. Everyone I knew called him Beans.
He taught me a lesson. And I still carry shame thinking about it.
There was another time in my life where I was married to someone else. I didn’t have any children yet. I was determined to make my “house” a home. Because it never felt quite right. We didn’t have a lot of money. But we weren’t poor either. We had a roof. Money to pay our bills. Comfort in the form of employment, shelter and food. But there was no life comfort. It wasn’t until I was out of there that I realized I was trying to “build” a life by building a house, a home. It didn’t occur to me then that the structure wasn’t what gave comfort.
I didn’t know that then. And it took me a long time to figure it out.
A mutual acquaintance, of ours and Beans, was selling a bed frame. It was a nice bed frame. I was also kind of clueless about the cost of things. I wanted a nice bed frame. I guess I shouldn’t say bed “frame”. It was the whole shebang. Headboard and footboard, both with carvings in them. The seller wanted $300 and was willing to take payments.
Somehow or another Beans was around when we were moving the bed frame to our house. I was standing outside on the back of someone’s truck. I don’t even remember who’s truck. I was looking at the bed lying there in pieces. I was suddenly struck by the idea that, uhm, I probably could have bought that in a store for the same price, new. Or maybe even less.
I looked at Beans and said “can you believe he wanted $300 for this! I can’t believe it. Do you think it’s worth $300?”
It sure looked different in pieces, on the back of a borrowed truck.
Beans was very quiet for a minute.
Finally I looked at him and quietly he said “it’s what you agreed to pay isn’t it?”. The other, unspoken words, were very loud in my ears. The seller didn’t make me buy this. He gave a price and I agreed. It was a deal I made.
The visual of that moment is so alive in my head. It was hot out. Sunny. A beautiful day. Beans was older. His white hair was pretty against his dark skin. He was much older than I. A different generation. A different race. We came from different worlds. But I was too naive to even know that. It didn’t occur to me that we were different. His character showed me the difference. I remember looking at him at that moment. Seeing him as he must have been seeing me, wondering about me, and who I am or what kind of person I was. He didn’t lecture me or look at me with anything other than the question about my agreement. He wasn’t making any judgments. He was either deciding who I was, or wondering if I knew, myself, who I was. He was teaching me. And knew it was up to me how I interpreted this very simple lesson.
This was my word. And my agreement.
We carried the bed in and set it up.
The sellers ended up moving very soon after selling us the bed. Before I had it paid off. They never forwarded me their contact information, nor did they return for the payment I owed them. I never ended up paying them off. We lost contact.
But I have lived a very long time wanting to pay off that bed. Even if I ever found the seller I don’t think I could pay the cash, and ever feel like I paid off that bed.
I can’t pay for what I learned. From a very simple statement that a fella named Beans probably never thought twice about.
But I have thought twice, thrice and thousands of times about. Every time I’ve ever regretted making a promise or saying I would do something and then wishing I hadn’t. Or contemplated not following through. More times than I can count I have remembered Beans asking me “it’s what you agreed to pay isn’t it?”. Grant it, sometimes I sigh heavily when I remember it was something I agreed to do. But having made that agreement or commitment I feel an obligation to follow through. Because of a lesson in character taught to me a very long time ago.
I can see Beans standing by the truck, helping me. Waiting on me. To determine who I was. It’s like I’ve spent a good many moments of my life going back to that moment. And he and I are still there, always, to go back to. And what I do now, determines how he sees me, then. And he’s still looking at me. No judgement. He’s just patiently waiting to see who I decide to be. Everything I do is going to determine who I am, in his eyes, and in mine. He’s still looking at me. Still waiting. Sometimes I make him wait too long.
I don’t want to let him down. Every time I contemplate a decision about fulfilling who I am I see him there, still holding back any judgment, still looking at me.
I want to pay off that bed.
And I want to always remember my regret.
So I don’t forget my lesson.