Dad, How Can We Afford to Take in a Family of 6?


by Don Smith

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Last week, one of my best friend's house burnt down around 2AM.  He, his wife, and his three children who were home barely escaped, and all ended up in the hospital being treated for smoke inhalation.  Several of their pets weren't so lucky.

The Red Cross showed up like clockwork just like they do for nearly 70,000 disasters a year, and by the time I found out about it at 7AM they had already found them a hotel room and given them some money for necessities even though this was a holiday.  Given the fact that about all they now owned was a pair of shorts, didn't even have wallets or vehicles, and nothing was open because it was Labor Day, they definitely needed the help.

Now, if you've ever been part of a large family, you know that a hotel room isn't the easiest place to stay for a family of 6, so I offered in passing that they would be welcome to stay with us if they needed to until they could find a place to rent.

The next day, I got a text.

“Looks like we may need a place to spend a few nights.  I have some offers to split up kids but would like to stay as a group.  Can we stay with you?  It's OK if you say no.  I totally understand.”

My instant response?  “Sure.”

My wife immediately went into motion getting rooms ready and moving our own 5 kids around as soon as I mentioned what was going on.  I didn't even have to ask her if it was OK because I already knew what her response would be.  I told our kids, and they seemed OK with it as well, some of them were excited because they saw this as an opportunity to have an extended sleepover with their friends.

My daughter asked me a question that made me pause.  One of her friends asked, “How can you guys afford to take in a family of 6 when you are already stretched really thin with the 7 of you?”

I didn't have to think about it for more than a few seconds.  I simply replied, “Sometimes you just have to do something because it is the right thing to do.”

I heard my mom and dad in that response, this was how they would have responded, and wanted me to respond.  Sometimes, you just have to do things for no other reason than because it is the right thing to do, and worry about the cost later.

I've been blessed to have an awesome set of role models and mentors, both at home and at work.  They instilled in me the value of doing the right thing, regardless of the cost.

Want to know something funny about that?  It has never failed to end up being OK in the long run when I've done that, and I sure sleep a lot better at night.

On the other hand, nearly every time I have done things that I didn't feel 100% right about purely out of selfishness (which I am ashamed to admit has been more than a few times), it has not ended up so well.

This time proved to be no different.  A few hours after my friend walked into the door, he shoved some cash into my hand.  I refused at first, but I eventually accepted as he continued to insist.  In the back of my mind, I realized that he needed to do this, as he is one of those guys who never wants to impose on anyone, and it would have been demoralizing for him to feel like I saw him as a charity case.  One of their other friends showed up with plenty to eat for both of our families, so we even enjoyed a free meal and talk that night.

I really enjoyed having our friends over, they went out of their way to make sure they interfered as little as possible, and it was nice having company.

Last night they moved out to a rental house, and even though it had been nearly a week, it felt like no time at all.  My daughter's question about how we can afford it never became an issue.  When you do the right thing, my experience is that things just tend to work out in the end.

I almost did not write this article, as I don't want people to think that I'm bragging about this.  The reason I did was that I think it is critical for my kids and others to hear this message.

Sometimes, you just have to do something because it is the right thing to do.

The benefits may not be immediately apparent and may take years to show up, if they ever do.  If nothing else you'll sleep a little better.  My experience?  Anytime I've taken the high road and done what needs to be done in business or in my personal life, it's worked out.

About the Author 

Don Smith

Happily married with five kids, Smith owns a technology company, is the founder of this site, has served on the board of directors for multiple companies, and loves playing soccer, hiking, and mentoring.

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