BY: JAY BRIJPAUL
On a lovely summer day, my family and I drove along a scenic route in Nova Scotia. We arranged to stay at a motel that night but unfortunately, the motel was full. The owner, Mr. Leo, lived next door and offered his basement to us. After dinner, I spent the evening with Mr. Leo, and he told me the following story.
He came from a wealthy family who owned the potato farms, the potato chip factories and a line of furniture stores. Mr. Leo and his wife raised six children.
John, his youngest, requested a car for his sixteenth birthday. Mr. Leo arranged with the bank. The manager interviewed John and asked that he complete a credit application. The loan for the car was denied because John was not working. Mr. Leo then said to his son, “I know you wanted your own car, but you need to get a job first. You can choose to work in any one of our businesses.”
Since the motel was next door, John decided to work there. Mr. Leo, unbeknownst to John, told the manager to give his son an entry-level job as a cleaner. John’s first job was to clean the washrooms. It was a real shock to him, but he wanted a car. He saved and eventually bought his first car after six months.
John realized that cleaning washrooms was unpleasant and without a good education, his chances to move up were slim. At nineteen, he enrolled in university and graduated with a Bachelors in Business Administration at twenty-four. He found a job with an engineering firm and rented an apartment close to his work. Mr. Leo assisted in furnishing the apartment, but John agreed to pay back the loan plus interest after two years.
The pressures of life kept increasing. John’s debt load of student loans, credit cards, and car loans became heavier and he was living from paycheck to paycheck. It was no different for the other siblings. Christmas was when all the family members gathered at the family home. The other five siblings, their spouses, and children were there. Mr. Leo, dressed in his Santa’s outfit, addressed the family, “Two days ago, mom and I opened our own bank- Leo’s bank! let’s toast to Leo’s bank!”
Mr. Leo collected applications from a nearby bank; stroked the name of the bank off and wrote “Leo’s Bank” instead. Each family member received an application. Mr. Leo consolidated each family member’s debts separately and arranged to pay them off. The family member, in turn, would make a monthly payment, at a slightly lower interest, back to Mr. Leo. It was a win-win situation because the children kept their heads above water and the interest they paid stayed in the family.
John, at forty-two, became a successful businessman. He was happily married with two children. At Christmas dinner that year, Mr. Leo gave the children all the interest they have paid to him over the years. He explained that the children, through their own hardships, were now better prepared to pass on the wealth to the next generation.
Sometimes, to succeed, we must allow our children to fail. Life by itself is a teacher. When we cater to our children’s’ wants we are denying their needs. We are denying them the opportunity to strengthen their wings.