In Virgil’s classic prose, The Aeneid, an account was told of a decade long siege of the city/state of Troy by the Greeks. After this 10-year period, the Greek leader Ulysses devised a plan to construct a giant wooden horse. The wooden horse was left at the gates of Troy as a parting gift while the defeated Greeks sailed back to Athens.
Seeing the fleeing ships, the Trojans brought the giant horse into their fortified city and placed it in the city’s main square. Unbeknown to the Trojans, Ulysses had placed 30 men inside the horse. These 30 men emerged from the horse under the cover of darkness and systematically defeated the people of Troy.
Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
Fast-forward a few millennia to last weekend. I received an e-mail from one of my college roommate and life-long friend, John. John went on to explain that he had been contacted by a woman, Rachel, who he had briefly dated while in college. John had not spoken to Rachel for almost 30 years but somehow she was able to locate him (ah...the wonders of the Internet).
Back in the early 80’s, Rachel’s adult life was just unfolding. She was a local beauty queen, a cheerleader for the then San Diego Clippers professional basketball team, and enrolled at San Diego State University studying business administration. She had an intelligent, good-looking, and financially secure boyfriend (John) who worshiped her. She had many other close friends who supported her. Life was good for Rachel.
Then one day she, she announced to John that she had met someone else. She and her new love were moving from San Diego to Tennessee to be closer to his family. It happened so suddenly. John was heart-broken (well for a few weeks anyways...he was quite the "catch" and soon found himself back playing the field quickly forgetting about Rachel).
That was the last anyone had heard from her in 30 years...until last week.
Out of the blue, Rachel called John to tell him how her life was now in tatters.
She and the boy she ran off with ended up getting married and having two children. She and her husband bought a home and were living a good life together.
Then, as she tells it, things changed. Her husband began drinking a lot and was unfaithful to her so she left him and her children. She moved in with another man who reportedly abused her, but continued to live with this man for almost ten years. She was unable to hold a steady job due to the activities of her personal life. Her ex-husband has poisoned her children so they no longer wanted anything to do with her.
Rachel eventually moved in with her mother, who had also moved to Tennessee some years before. However her mother recently kicked Rachel out (for untold reasons) and got a restraining order against her own daughter.
Tearfully, Rachel called John in San Diego. She told him that she needed to make a new start. She wanted a do-over. She wanted to come back home to San Diego and tearfully begged him to help an old friend.
Since his college days, John has done fairly well for himself. He has built a extremely successful business, has a loving family along with many friends, and helps participate in his community through his giving of time and money.
As an entrepreneur in the financial sector, he has experience with people who misrepresent themselves to him and has grown a set of antennae to sift out the charlatans and conmen looking to separate him from his money. Was Rachel just another in a long line of people looking for a hand-out or perhaps worse? John, needlessly, was skepical.
After discussing the situation with his wife, he decided to cautiously help Rachel if she was truly intent on changing her life. He agreed to purchase, on her behalf, a one-way ticket plane from Tennessee on two conditions:
1) She needed to find a place to stay. She could in a local women’s shelter or with old friends but staying with him at his house was not an option.
2) She needed to prepare a resume and send it to him so he could circulate it among his personal friends and contacts.
A few days later, Rachel e-mailed her resume to John and told him that she had researched local shelters and had selected one for her to stay at while she got herself situated in San Diego.
John sent her resume to several friends asking that they could personally review it and to contact her if they could help with any sort of work.
Last weekend, John called me personally and retold Rachel’s story of woe. I knew Rachel from way back in college (remember, I was John’s roommate at the time). He wanted to know if I would be able to help. I explained that I didn’t have any positions open but that I did have an extra room that she could stay in until she got herself situated. John thanked me for my offer, but said that it would be best if we waited a few days to see if Rachel was serious about taking control of her own life.
The following Wednesday she flew from Tennessee to San Diego using a ticket that John and his wife purchased for her. Unfortunately, her plane was several hours late. John called me to ask if I could possibly meet her at the airport and bring her to the shelter. I agreed.
I met Rachel at the airport. The years have treated her well. I took her to the shelter that she had researched and selected. It wasn’t the Hilton but it was fairly clean and somewhat safe. As I began unloading her luggage, Rachel announced to me that there is no way she could stay at this shelter because it didn’t meet her expectations. The tears began to flow as if on a movie director’s cue.
I reloaded her bags back into my car and asked her when her last meal was. We decided to share some Mexican food while we figured out what the next step was. I decided at once that I didn’t trust her enough to invite her to stay the night at my house, so instead I purchased a night at a local hotel and took her there after dinner.
After checking Rachel into the hotel, I called John to tell him of the events of that evening.
After a brief discussion, we both agreed that she had reneged on her side of the contract by not finding shelter. We were both willing to help but she needed to make the effort to take control of her own life.
The following morning, John met her at the hotel and explained to her that she had only two choices: Go to the shelter or go home. She selected the latter.
A giant horse was left at our gate. It was a hard choice but we decided it was good idea to leave it there...
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