This is my dog Barkley:
Normally, Barkley is a pretty smart dog. He follows most commands and understands (for the most part) not to pee in the house. He’s a very lovable, cuddly dog who (wisely) prefers me over any other family member. Except Barkley has one problem. He’s small and sometimes, when we’re not looking, he gets stuck in closets.
You see, Barkley has a terrible habit of coming into closets or the garage while we’re in there. Since he’s so small and stealth, it easy not to notice that he slipped in. So we exit the closet/garage not knowing that Barkley is still stuck inside. It’s usually not until about 5 or 10 (or once, almost a 1/2 hour) before we realize that he’s not around. This normally sets off a chorus of “Barkley, come here.” “Barkley, where are you?” and ends with “Did you check the closet?” More often than not, he’s in the bedroom closet.
What’s most unusual (especially for a dog that barks at everything) is that he doesn’t make a sound. He just sits in the closet, in the dark, waiting for someone to find him. There’s no barking, no howling, no whimpering, no scratching. Nothing but a little dog sitting in a dark closet waiting for one of us to let him out. When this happened (again) the other night it struck me–Barkley’s being stuck in the closet is just like being in debt.
When you’re in debt, much like being in a closet, you feel trapped. The walls feel very close, the room feels small, and everything is dark. You feel nervous and scared. You feel alone. You’re stuck. You pass the minutes assessing what seems like a hopeless situation and praying that someone comes along and finds you and lets you out. You’re too scared to scream or ask for help because doing so would alert someone to the fact that you are now stuck in a closet. It’s embarrassing. You eventually resign to being stuck in this small, dark, hopeless place.
You close your eyes for a few minutes and allow yourself to wallow in your own self-pity. You reflect on all the behaviors that you thought were good but now you realize, maybe not so much. Because if they were good habits, you wouldn’t be stuck in a closet. When you eventually open your eyes again, you notice something you hadn’t before–a ray of light coming through the bottom of the door. That light may be a book by Dave Ramsey, a debt reduction support group, an amazing personal finance blog. But something presents itself to you in a small way that makes you realize “hey, I have a tool to get out of here. I don’t have to be stuck.” The only thing that ‘s up to you is how to use that tool.
You can throw it against a wall and hope someone hears you. You can read it like a manual, absorb and use the information so you never get stuck in the closet again. You can share the tool with others to make sure that your stupidity has a positive impact. You can use it to stand on in order to reach the doorknob and turn it to let yourself out of the closet. And while you’re standing on the tool, you can thank G-d that you have opposable thumbs that help turn that doorknob. Because unlike my dog, we have the ability to get ourselves out of our debt closets. It’s just a matter of wanting it.