Whoever said, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be" wouldn't last ten minutes in my neighborhood. We'd all be wondering what was wrong with her. I mean, is she just stingy? Doesn't she trust us? Isn't our stuff good enough for her? Whoever heard of such a thing as not being a borrower or a lender?
You see, the way my neighbors and I look at it, borrowing isn't just about borrowing. It's about admitting that you're vulnerable. It's about admitting that you have needs. It's about admitting that even though you've been to the grocery store three times already, you still forgot to buy tomato sauce.
And lending isn't just about lending, either. It's about sharing what you have. It's about helping someone in their time of need. It's about being reassured that you're not the only one who runs out of tomato sauce in the middle of making a meatloaf.
In other words, it's a basic part of social interaction. It’s the old, "share and share alike", and "what's mine is yours and what's yours is mine" idea, which folks have been practicing since the beginning of time.
Not that borrowing and lending always go smoothly. As with anything else, there are bound to be certain risks involved. I learned that painful lesson early. Just a few months after I married, a girlfriend (let’s call her "Lydia Griffin”) borrowed my brand new Dutch oven. Unfortunately, despite being a terrific girlfriend, she turned out to be a ghastly cook. Thirty-six years later, there are still traces of her burned-on peanut brittle in the bottom of my pan.
But you won't hear me complaining. That's because I, too, have been guilty of a similar crime. I once borrowed a neighbor's first edition hardback copy of "The Pelican Brief", and dropped it while reading in the bathtub. Within seconds the whole book swelled to three times its original size. It was a terrible way to learn that not all pelicans are at home in the water!
The point is, if you're not careful some pretty awful things can happen. Property can be damaged, feelings can be hurt and even worse, friendships can be destroyed. To some, the risk isn't worth it. But for most of us, though, there will always be a basic need to keep borrowing and lending.
So how do we avoid all those negative results? Well, like anything else, it's a matter of knowing what's expected. I believe that following a few simple rules and guidelines is the best approach, and toward that end I have compiled a list which I hope you'll find helpful. I call it:
The Ten Commandments for Borrowing and Lending:
I. Thou shalt not just help thyself to thy neighbor's stuff. Ask, and it shall be loaned unto you.
II. Honor thy neighbor's lawn mower. If thou breakest off the throttle control, replace it. If thou dulleth the blade, sharpen it. If thou emptieth the gas tank, refill it.
III. Thou shalt not borrow money from, nor lend money to a friend. That's what banks are for.
IV. Remember what thou didst borrow, and replace it wholly. An egg for an egg, and a cup of sugar for a cup of sugar.
V. Thou shalt return a borrowed item promptly. Thou shalt not keep thy neighbor's Shop Vac or his step ladder for more than forty days and forty nights.
VI. Do unto thy neighbor's ski sweater as thou wouldst have her do unto yours. An unclean garment shall not be returned until it is washed as white as snow.
VII. If thou hast already borrowed thy neighbor's black beaded evening purse seven times, verily, verily I say unto you; break down and go buy one of thine own.
VIII. If thou returnest thy neighbor's loaf pan filled with fresh, hot cinnamon bread, she shall rise up and call thee blessed.
IX. Thou shalt not borrow from the picky. Neither shalt thou lend to the careless. For thus is the path to destruction.
X. Thou shalt not keep score.
About the only other suggestion I have is in regard to teenagers. For those of you who have them, or have ever lived with them, you already know that they are the world's worst about borrowing something and then either tearing it up, losing it, or forgetting to return it. In dealing with teenagers, then, perhaps "Neither a borrower nor a lender be" may be the best advice after all.