You may recall from a past column that after considering my options for what to do with my iPhone 5C (trade it in; sell it; consign it; auction it; donate it; or keep it) I'd decided to sell the phone to the online company that had given me the best cash offer.
That didn't happen.
Within hours of posting that column, I received the following message in my inbox offering me one more option:
Dear Mary: If you are willing to sell it to an individual, I'd be interested in your phone for my 16-year-old daughter. I can send you a check, and you could wait until it clears to mail me the phone if that would make you more comfortable (since you don't know me, even though I feel like I know you from reading your column every day for years). Just let me know if you are interested. -- Tammy
I quickly responded ...
Dear Tammy: Curiously, I haven't formally made the deal with Decluttr yet, so my phone is still here with me. If you feel comfortable, tell me about your family. Where do you live? What is your daughter doing this summer, and what are her hopes and dreams? -- Mary
That message prompted several more, and we chatted back and forth. I learned that her daughter Kelsey is an amazing teen, loves and excels in sports, and is very active in her church youth organization. Through our emails, I learned a lot about Tammy's family -- so much so that by the end of that second email I felt like I'd known them for years.
Dear Tammy: What a great story! Just lovely. What a wonderful family. Thanks for introducing me to you all.
Here's my counteroffer: Send me your mailing address. I'll put the phone into the mail first thing on Monday. Check it out, and make sure you can get it set up with a data plan and all. Then, as you are able and see a need for in your community, use the money you might have spent for a phone to bless someone or some project there.
Thanks for contacting me. This is blessing me far more than if I'd sent the phone off to Decluttr! -- Mary
Dear Mary: Oh, my. That is an incredibly generous and kind offer. I am afraid you may have misinterpreted why I wrote back with our family story. I did not mean to give you the impression we can't afford to pay you for the phone.
The reason I gave you so many details about our situation is that I wanted to be a witness to the fact that everything that you try to communicate to the public is true -- you CAN live within your means; you CAN live debt-free; you CAN live simply; you CAN go without all the latest fashions and material things and still be quite happy. Not only is it possible; it is quite liberating and can open up all kinds of opportunities to pursue what is truly important to you (in our case, it was high-quality family time).
Please accept my apology if I made you feel bad for our situation. That was not my intent. -- Tammy
Dear Tammy: It didn't cross my mind that you were financially needy. Truly, it didn't. I like the idea of paying it forward. And I love your family.
So my offer stands. I'd love to send you the phone for Kelsey as a blessing you hadn't expected and allow that to prompt you to bless someone God puts in your path. -- Mary
Tammy quickly accepted, so off my adorable bright-green iPhone 5C went off to the post office for delivery to Kelsey. After a few weeks, I got the most beautifully written note in the mail.
Dear Mrs. Hunt: Thank you so much for the fantastic iPhone. Your generosity and thoughtfulness has really touched me. My mom and I bought 44 pairs of jeans to donate to the charity program in our district. This program, which we are involved in, provided the less-fortunate kids in our local school with an outfit, school supplies and other needs for the coming school year.
The phone has been working beautifully. We connected it with our plan, and it works great. Than you for your generosity. This world needs more people like you who think of others' needs first. God bless! -- Kelsey
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at firstname.lastname@example.org, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually.