As sheriff’s deputies directed the removal of furniture from her apartment, Alison sat on the front steps looking at her phone. Her bright pink t-shirt had glowing orange letters that said, “This is my lucky t-shirt.”
But after nine months of not paying rent and violating other terms of her lease, Alison’s luck had run out.
When I met her last year — when she applied to rent from me — I felt sorry for Alison. She told me about her difficult past. A failed marriage to a dysfunctional man. Drug issues and recovery. Financial problems. But she said she had turned everything around. Her supervisor at work gave her a glowing endorsement.
In the five years that I’ve been managing rentals for my company, she’s the only person I’ve regretted renting to. She left owing us thousands and thousands of dollars. Cleaning up and repairing the apartment will cost even more.
But as she sat there in her lucky t-shirt — two days after having her third child — I still felt sorry for her. And it hurt my heart to think about what could have brought this attractive blue-eyed blonde to such despair.
I’m a firm believer that we’re responsible for the lives we create. I’m responsible for my own mistakes and for the messes I’ve created in my own life. Even those of us who were dealt dysfunctional hands in life — as I was with my family — eventually reach the point that we have to accept responsibility for what we are and what we’re doing with ourselves. I strongly believe all that.
But at the same time, I know that those who end up with seriously broken lives have clues in their past that point toward what they were going to become. And as much as I know Alison is responsible for what her life has become — and for all the lies she’s told me over the last year — I still feel the same way I felt when I met her.
I feel sorry for her. I wish I could help her.
After sheriff’s deputies had removed all of her furniture, the locks were changed and she abandoned a good bit of random personal junk inside.
Some of it was half-eaten food that had dried in bowls. There were old bank statements and income tax returns. The walls were covered with inspirational slogans — such as, “She believed she could, so she did.”
As I looked at the mess which I had to pay someone to clean up, I was struck by the contrasts. Her life was a mess, but she seemed to surround herself with words and images that sent positive messages.
Among a pile of financial papers — including various legal documents related to the eviction — there was a square tile which said, “Today is a good day to have a great day.” Lying nearby was a book called “The Most Inspiring Things Ever Said.”
She had abandoned notebooks which were filled with details of a broken life. There were financial documents that suggested things that I wouldn’t have suspected. There were handwritten notes that lead me to believe she had sunk even more deeply into a seamy side of life than I had guessed.
Everything I saw was consistent with the experience I’ve had with her for the last year or so. There were legal issues. At least one drug arrest this year. A lot of dishonesty. Possible fraud. Association with shady characters.
But what made her this way? What brought her to this point?
The easy answer is to just write people off and say, “She’s no good,” but that’s not a satisfying answer to me. I don’t know how to help them. I sometimes feel that I barely know how to save myself from my own flaws.
I don’t know any practical way to save millions of hurting people — including Alison and many far worse — from the broken lives they’ve created for themselves. And that’s a sobering reminder that we live in a fallen world.
Note: Everything I’ve told you here in true, but I’ve changed the name and concealed certain facts to protect people involved. Even though I could point to public records — both criminal and civil — to document all of this, I don’t want to make a difficult situation any worse than it already is for “Alison” or her family.