I’m going to brag about a family accomplishment that took place today.
One of the things that has been very important to Pam and me has been for our boys to be able to go to college, if they wanted to, without accruing a huge amount of debt. I am not opposed to debt, I think Dave Ramsey goes a little wacko with his anti-debt thing (I’m honestly not a big Ramsey fan – he’s great for getting out of debt but I think much of his other advice is suspect). I am however opposed to bad debt. Good debt helps you accomplish good goals and therefore has reasonable debt ceilings. Bad debt burdens you and keeps you from being able to do what you want and feel called to do because you have to make a serious student loan payment each month. So it was important to us that our boys education be done in a manner that they were enabled to do whatever they felt called to do. If they felt called to work in job that didn’t pay much it would be much easier to do so if they weren’t burdened with a large student loan. So the whole family made sacrifices to make sure that they were both freed from large student loans as a result of their undergraduate degrees.
When I say the whole family I mean the whole family. Both boys were a part of this. They both worked hard to cover their own expenses and earn scholarships. Adam worked in the woods of Minnesota to earn scholarships from the Conservation Corps and Noah worked as a Resident Adviser to get free room and board. Both boys also understood that they needed to pick a good regional school for this to work. I know they both would have enjoyed going to flagship universities. We told them that we would pay for a good regional school and anything beyond that was on them, though we hoped they would choose to not have any debt. They both earned wonderful degrees from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. They made wise choices and that made this possible.
Pam and I also have made choices that helped to accomplish this and sometimes we have also just been lucky. We both worked hard for the extra income to pay for tuition but we also got lucky with opportunities occurring when they did. For example, Pam worked as much as possible during the Summer semesters at UWSP and took up opportunities that provided extra income that enabled us to pay towards the boys’ school. She has worked extra committees and completed non-necessary projects to help us achieve this goal. In addition, my job with Corporate Chaplains of America popped up at a time when I was looking for some extra income to cover college expenses. A notice concerning it appeared on a friend’s Facebook page right when I was looking. Turns out that I love being a chaplain as much as I love being a pastor. I work hard at chaplaining and pastoring but I didn’t control seeing that Facebook Ad. That was luck. and the privilege of knowing people who would post such ads. I was just able to take advantage of the circumstances that occurred. The reason I say this is because while Pam and I have worked hard to make sure that the boys’ school has been paid for. We earned extra income and cut many unnecessary expenses. Still I also recognize that it hasn’t been all by our work and effort. Others, often, don’t have such opportunities. Much has happened for us because of God’s blessing and some has occurred because of some of the privileges that I have had that others have not had. We didn’t get here just by our hard work.
I need to say that our circumstances now are quite different than they were in the past. For most of our marriage and for most of the boy’s lives we have been a family with one primary income and, at best, a small side income, and often no side income, from the other spouse. This was a purposeful choice on our part. We went through many years of living paycheck to paycheck and not paying certain bills at certain times because our cash reserves couldn’t handle the payment. We had the opportunity to make this choice, while others don’t. I am thankful for that opportunity and I recognize that it was a gift. In addition much of our professional time was spent with the primary income being a traditionally low paying job. Televangelists, and some mega-church senior pastors, might make it look otherwise but ministerial positions aren’t typically high paying positions. The same is true with Pam’s position. She could leave her professorial position and receive a pay raise instantly. Income has never been our primary motivator. Still our circumstances over the past 5 years have been vastly different from our circumstances in the past, and that made paying for school possible. We made choices to put ourselves in as good of a situation as possible but we were also lucky that the extra income came at the right time and that we didn’t have catastrophe’s happen at the wrong time. Once again what we did with our choices mattered, but we were also blessed and privileged.
So why do I write about this today? Even tough Noah walked in his graduation two weeks ago he still has one class he needs to finish. He will finish it next Friday and be officially finished with his undergraduate degree. Today Pam and I paid for that class and therefore both boys will have graduated with their Bachelor of Science degrees without a bit of debt.
This is seriously one of the prouder moments of my life. I am so proud of our family. All four of us working together made this possible. I also recognized that so much of this has been freely gifted to us.