When to say no, I will not help you.

I’m a landlord. Recently I found tenants. From the very beginning I knew they couldn’t pay the first months rent plus the deposit, but they said they could pay most of it. They recently moved to town and one just started work. I confirmed employment, as well as a relocation bonus that was on its way. I decided to work with them to pay the first month in installments as more paychecks came in.

Then, when it was time to move in, they said they had nothing to pay up front, but would get it all to me in the first couple of weeks. There was no reason for why there was a change. I was confused and frustrated.

I felt this meant they had not been forthcoming about what they could pay upfront. I didn’t want to deal with constant stories about when they could get money for rent. I said no, we were done.

Then came: please work with us, we will find a way to get the money, otherwise we will be homeless…

I stood my ground.

And it was hard as hell and is still nagging at me.

It feels like I am hurting another person. I can even easily internalize their situation to feel that it is MY FAULT that they will be homeless. (Which is unlikely, but let’s just say it’s true).

My younger self probably wouldn’t have stood her ground.

How can we be good, caring people, without it causing detriment to ourselves? When should we put others interests before our own?

Right now, health care workers are risking their lives caring for COVID-19 patients. Others are providing supplies to neighbors. And free housing to healthcare workers. On and on we can find glorious examples of putting other’s interests before our own.

Some risks are worth taking. Others are not. Let’s respect what each of us decides in this moment and in future moments.

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