True Story: The Flower Among Thorns

Today’s true story is about a company that took me by surprise. Well, a company and the man behind it. I discovered a debt collection agency that had a unique–and awfully successful–idea.

CFS2 has the same goals as any debt collector–to recover monies owed. The way they go about this task, however, is to throw out a lifeline, to offer help. They believe in second chances. When they call to recover funds, they first ask, “how can I help?” They’ve been known to assist in resume writing, help set up job interviews, and even call to remind someone of a job interview on a certain day. Who does that?? When I think of “debt collector” I think of harassing phone calls and demands. Not a lifeline. How odd! But then, so many wonderful things are odd.

I can’t help but think of the tax collectors in Jesus’ day. They never made a person’s day by showing up at the door, and neither do debt collectors. However, every single tax collector, including one of Jesus’ disciples, had a choice in how they went about their job. Most greedily snapped up the opportunity to take more than what was owed, saving a nice chunk for themselves. Who would ever know?

CFS2 faced that same choice. We have a nasty job–how will we go about it? CEO and founder Bill Bartmann decided they’d take the unusual approach of kindness. He rewarded employees based on the number of free resources provided to each person rather than on dollars brought in. What a concept–people being more important than numbers. Surprisingly, it’s paid off hugely. CFS2 reports a 200% success rate over its competitors. Who knew kindness could pay off?

As a writer, of course I had one burning question. WHY? Why help these people out? Why pay a staff of people to write resumes, give legal and financial advice, and direct them to free resources when it had no apparent impact on their bottom line?

I have a theory. CFO Bill Bartmann is a man of second chances himself, with an amazing back story. Bartmann joined a traveling carnival after leaving home at age 14, and his misadventures began. He became an alcoholic at the young age of 17, and after a drunken fall down the stairs one night, was told he would never walk again. Through a series of events, he straightened out his life, earned his GED, and continued on to law school. Those years included many lifelines thrown to him, many hands extended to help. After years of this, he had the privilege to return the favor. He knew what it was to be given that second chance, thrown the lifeline instead of the punishment he deserved.

The whole theme of second chances has always resonated with me. I’ve struggled more than once with holding onto a grudge, or simply allowing a frustrating situation to simmer in my mind far past its expiration date. Righteous indignation can be addictive. But God had a way of reminding me that I was a person of second chances.”Don’t forget, you were like this, and this, and this,” He’d say.

Oh yeah.

“And remember the many times AFTER that I forgave you too?”

Uh huh.

“And remember how grateful you were when you realized I loved you anyway?”

Yep, definitely remember that.

“And you’re mad at this person for….  what, exactly?”

Well, this little thing that sort of offended me….

((Sigh))

I’ve been offered more than I deserve, and I’ve experienced remarkable forgiveness. I too, now, have the opportunity to return the favor. Granted, I don’t run a huge company that has the chance to help thousands of strangers, but I do have friends who don’t follow through, strangers who cut me off, people who take from me without giving back. I have the opportunity to share just a slice of the forgiveness I’ve experienced, because, thanks to God, I have become a person of second chances.

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