How Money Can Change A Life

July 18, 2007

What would you say to a drug dealer who asked to bum a cigarette?  My answer was pretty simple, “I don’t smoke”.  He laughed and said I was smart, I told him he should quit.  Of course at that point I didn’t know he was a drug dealer and gang member, that came out later as we sat and talked on the courthouse steps.  I was there for jury duty; he was there to work out a deal for getting caught selling drugs.

Since it was his first offense he had gotten off with three years probation and was waiting for a ride to his new home in the suburbs.  Just 5 months ago he could have walked the 12 blocks from the courthouse to his home in “the hood” (his words, not mine) but now he had a better place to go. I couldn’t help but think as he told me his story how fortunate he was and how money really can change a person’s life.

A Second Chance
The change started 6 months ago when he met a young lady that wasn’t from his part of town.  She was actually from a whole different world than him, wealthy parents living in a huge home in a nice neighborhood.  As their relationship grew serious he met the parents and they offered him a second chance, a new lifestyle.  If he’d lose the guns, drugs, and gangs, he could move into their home, away from a life destined for jail or death.

A New Life
He jumped at the chance.  He’s cut his ties with his old neighborhood, has a steady job with benefits, and is now free of the drug charge that loomed over his head.  He likes her parents, loves her, and wants to change his life. It seemed to me he was sincere.  I could tell he was a smart guy he picked up on stuff quickly and asked smart questions.  With the right support and motivation I bet he’ll go far.

A Rough Start
Obviously, he made a choice growing up to lead the troubled life that he did.  There were people born in his same neighborhood that hadn’t followed the dangerous and illegal lifestyle he had.  However, the cards were stacked against him from the beginning. His dad was in jail so his role models growing up were gang members and drug dealers, that’s what he learned, that’s how he knew to get by. 

We talked about how one night he robbed a cocaine dealer then “partied like a rockstar”.  He started learning about guns when he was five years old.  His cousin was in the same gang as him and was on the FBI most wanted list for multiple murders.  He painted a pretty bleak picture of life in the fast lane, the only life he knew.  Luckily for him, he has discovered how money can change a life and now lives in the safety of suburbia.  Through the graciousness of his wealthy ‘in-laws’ he has a safe place to live, food on the table, and a regular job to help him earn an income.

Making Adjustments
“Dealing drugs makes you lazy”, he told me.  He wasn’t used to having to show up every morning and put in a full days work.  I told him I didn’t like going to work all day either.  I let him know there were legal ways to make money other than going to a job.  I talked about all the different ways you can make money online and explained the things I’ve learned over the last year.  I told him it took time & patience to make it work but anyone could do it. 

Parting Words
When his ride finally pulled up two hours later I didn’t know quite what to say.  I had so much more to tell him.  So many more questions to ask, so much more advice to give.  I said something uninspiring about how he should be sure to stay out of the old neighborhood and check out making money online legally.

I never got his name, never gave him mine.  I’ll probably never see him again; I hope he sticks with his new life plan.  I wish I would have emphasized what an opportunity his girlfriend’s parents had given him and that he should take advantage of it.  I should have told him about Chris Gardner’s story chronicled in The Pursuit of Happyness, how perseverance can lead to great outcomes.  I hope our two hour conversation had some impact on him. I wish I could have done a better job answering his questions.  What would you have told him?  What gems of advice would you have shared to help motivate the guy to stay on the straight and narrow?


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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15 Responses to How Money Can Change A Life

  • Bill

    well written, but there was a strong whiff of condescension there at the end.

  • Ben

    I thought about exchanging numbers but I just met the guy and based on some of the stories he told me, I wouldn’t want him stopping by if he reverted back to his old ways. It’s funny how protective you become once you have kids.

  • Make Money Without a Job

    You never know who you’re gonna meet and what their story is. Interesting short story. It would be cool if you had gotten his number and check up on him from time to time to find out what ended up happening. But money can definitely change a life. People say money isn’t everything. That’s true. But how much money you have determines a great deal about the quality of one’s life.

  • Ben

    Thanks everyone for your feedback. I agree, this jury duty was definitely an unexpectedly good experience. I hope the guy sticks with it.

  • macewan

    I work with a nonprofit along side folks with various developmental disabilities – mental and/or physical. It humbles you really quickly when you see how lucky you are in life. It did me.

    Nice story – I’ll Digg it in a minute.


  • tehnyit

    I never thought jury duty could be such a rewarding experience!

    From your description, I think that the ex-drugdealer already realises his opportunity for a better life.

    I am sure that your conversation with him has gave him some positive influences. Small positive influences is better than any negative influence.

  • MoneyNing

    Looks like you actually gained quite an experience from your jury duty!

    Good luck to him and hopefully he can gain much from the conversation you had with him. There will be a true test if he one day meets people from his past but that will come later on in his life!

  • Patrick

    I think you did a fine job. He is obviously making his way and is moving in the right direction. He is asking questions and looking to find open doors instead of only seeing those closed in front of him.

    You can never impart all of your knowledge in one 2 hour sitting. But you can let people know there are other ways of life, and you can be supportive of them as a person.

  • KMC

    It sounds like maybe that jury duty isn’t costing you as much as you thought it would. Great post.


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