Why I Give Stories

Learn why giving back is important to John G

John G

 Associate Director, Global First Line Testing

As a youth I became intimately acquainted with some of the realities of poverty, so the Employee Giving Campaign always strikes a chord with me.

When I was little, my parents owned a restaurant. As is all too common for the industry, the restaurantfolded and my parents went bankrupt – their entire life savings was lost. This happened when I was 12. I was thrust into a world where I was worried that my family might not be able to pay the rent and become homeless. Soon I was telling my classmates that our phone at home was not working because of a wiring problem, when in truth the line was cut because we couldn’t pay the bill. This was followed by a gut-wrenching fear whenever there was a knock on the door, because you never know when it might be a repo-man. When our phone was eventually reconnected, it was a mixed blessing; because it also afforded me the opportunity to experience the “joys” of interacting with collection agencies.

I’ll never forget the first time that I spoke to a collection agency. At the time I was 13 or 14, and ironically, they were going after my brother, not my parents. The man didn’t in any way identify himself and he tried to pressure me into telling him where my brother was. My brother was in his early 20’s and I genuinely had no idea where he was since he didn’t live with us. The man made some vaguely threatening statements about how my brother was “in a lot of trouble” and a “really young guy to owe so many people so much money”. At the time I thought he might be a mobster, and was very relieved when I found out what it really was.

About a year after the bankruptcy, when things were a bit more stable, a CD that my grandmother gave me matured. The money was essentially her final gift to me as its maturation was close in proximity to her passing. I used that money to buy a computer, which was very exciting as it was my first ever “major” purchase with my own money. One day when I was at school, the repo-men came to take it away. My mother pleaded with them to let me keep it, telling them that it was “my” computer, and essentially the fi nal gift from my grandmother. We were lucky because they showed sympathy and let me keep it. I wasn’t told this story until many years later, but it was shocking how close I came to losing such a cherished possession.

The story above may be harrowing, but we were actually very lucky. We never ended up homeless and we never went hungry. Towards the end of my family’s restaurant an uncle lent us money to ensure that we could buy groceries. When the restaurant’s situation became public knowledge, fortune smiled on us again because the owners of some local restaurants (family friends) immediately offered my father a job. Sure, there were some close calls, and a few years of repo-men and collection agency run-ins, but in the end, we got to avoid the worst of it. That said, my strongest memory of that time is fear and hopelessness. My stomach goes into knots when I get a phone call and don’t recognize the number or hear a knock when I don’t expect a visitor. I can only imagine what it must be like for people who experienced more severe situations.

In the end, things worked out okay for me family. While my parents are no longer together, they are both reasonably comfortable. I have moved on and done alright as well, which is evidenced in part by my having the privilege of working here. But not everyone is as lucky as we were, which is why it is so important to give when we can and assist those who do not share our fortune.

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