Today’s the day. The start of a new month means mortgage and rent payments fall due, even when the world is reeling from a global pandemic.
My landlord sent a message to all tenants two weeks ago about rent payments. They promised that while they didn’t have an immediate answer for people who might not be able to make rent, they were working on it.
They promised they would treat everyone fairly.
That got me to thinking: in a crisis where so many people are losing their jobs out of the blue and so unexpectedly, what, exactly, is fair?
It certainly wasn’t fair to them that a previously unknown virus would sweep the world, forcing many businesses to close down and lay off workers.
Last week in my state alone, the number of people filing for unemployment benefits jumped 1,600%. In just one single week.
Some people might argue, of course, that every good American should have an emergency fund already saved. Future mortgage and rent payments should be covered. That extra savings all of us should have should just be there waiting for any economic difficulty.
I agree that it’s a nice idea.
But some people don’t make enough money, even if they live in housing that wouldn’t break most people’s banks, to save that kind of cash.
Some might even have some money saved to cover today’s bill. But what’ll they do next month?
Some might argue that if one person gets a break, then everyone should. If the out-of-luck person in Apartment C5 gets to skip a month’s rent (or at least put it off a while), then everyone in Building C — and all the others — should get the same courtesy.
I don’t think that way.
I’m very fortunate. I work in an industry that’s deemed “essential.” And I have a specific job that can be performed from home. So I’m holed up at home with the dog, who’s still trying to figure out why I haven’t been to work in more than two weeks.
I’m getting paid. Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, my April rent is always flying through cyberspace to my landlord’s bank account.
Other people aren’t so lucky.
But all of us have the same responsibility. We all have to pay. We all signed that legally binding lease.
The fact that I can pay means I don’t need special arrangements. I pay my rent and go on about my business (as normally as possible at the moment).
The fact that others have fallen on such drastically-hard times means they can’t pay.
You can argue whether you think they deserve a break. But if you think they don’t, you’d probably feel quite differently if you were in their shoes. I know people who hate those who take “handouts.” But when they hit hard times, some of them were only too happy to quietly accept their own.
Funny how that works, isn’t it?
What my landlord eventually did, by the way, was to provide a list of documents tenants who’s been laid off could show to prove their status. Arrangements, in those cases, would be made.
I don’t know what the arrangements are, but I hope they’re generous.
I hope no one has to face insult on top of injury at a time like this.
Sometimes, we need to remember to set aside our politics and our deeply-held philosophies. Sometimes, we need to remember there are real people suffering in the world.
If we could do that a bit more often, maybe the world will emerge from this pandemic as a much better place.