Forgive Some Debt in Time of Hardship

Apr 3 , 2021
By Kidist Yidnekachew

It is often people somewhere near the middle of the socioeconomic ladder who lend money and give the borrower a generous grace period, even if they need it badly enough. They do it out of pity or the shame of putting pressure on the borrower to pay back the money. The rich are not as magnanimous. I have experimented on several occasions and found that the wealthy value debt more than the poor – perhaps that is how they remain rich.

I have a spendthrift friend. She pays for most of her friends even though some of them are more well off than her. Her kindness, and perhaps carelessness, is worrying because she offers to pay for others even when she is flat broke. There have been times when she borrowed money from me to pay for our other friends.

She often uses a saying to describe her situation: Ye mayalflet deha habtam yegabezal, which means in English that “a poor person who cannot catch a break treats the rich.”

At least, my friend looks like her means though. Most of us have also come to know people who would do everything they could to appear rich. One neighbour I had was one of those people who always dressed fashionably. She had expensive clothes, shoes, bags and accessories.

Many wondered how she afforded all those things while living in a small house that could only fit a single person. She used to put all her clothes in a suitcase as she did not even have a closet. The only things found in her house aside from common kitchen utensils were a bed and a small gas stove. It turned out that it was her wealthy distant relatives that fronted her the money. She chose to spend it on clothes, not save the money or improve her living condition – she could have started by buying a closet.

Life for borrowers is not made easy by the lenders either. A good illustration of this was a relative of mine who was forced to borrow some money after the economic devastation wreaked by the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. One of her closest friends lent her 9,000 Br to be paid back shortly. The lender drives a 1.4-million-Br car and owns a family business.

But my relative could not come up with the money in the duration of time promised as she was not getting her salary on time. She tried to explain but in vain. The lender insisted that the money should be paid back immediately, suggesting that she is financially stressed herself although she had recently announced plans to buy land. My relative begged her friend to give her some time and promised to pay her back as soon as she gets the money, but the friend kept calling her nonstop as if that would miraculously make it fall from the sky.

Some people would argue that her reason for needing the money back is irrelevant, knowing that it is her right to demand it. They would be right. But pestering a friend continuously, even though the money might not have made that much of a difference to oneself but could easily financially devastate the borrower, is not necessarily thoughtful either. Banks do the same thing when they foreclose on mortgaged houses during times of economic hardship. It is not necessarily illegal, but neither is it ethical.

But a few years ago, when it was this rich person who needed cash to run her business, this middle-income friend of mine lent her money from her savings; a much larger amount than the current one they are at odds over. She did not make the friend uncomfortable, let alone stressed by asking her to return the money even when my relative was facing financial problems.

Instead, she waited patiently for the friend to return the money on her own time. The friend did not pay the money all at once but in installments. Now the tables have turned, and the friend cannot even wait a few months for 9,000 Br despite the financial devastation caused to many by COVID-19 being evident.

PUBLISHED ON Apr 03,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1092]

Kidist Yidnekachew is interested in art, human nature and behaviour. She has studied psychology, journalism and communications and can be reached at (

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