You may recall that several months ago, after considering my options for what to do with my iPhone 5C (trade it in, sell it, consign it, auction it, donate it, or keep it) I’d decided to sell the phone to the online company that had given me the best cash offer.

That didn’t happen. Within hours of posting that column, I received a message offering one more option:

Dear Mary: If you are willing to sell it to an individual, I’d be interested in your phone for my 16-year-old daughter. I can send you a check and you could wait until it clears to mail me the phone if that would make you more comfortable (since you don’t know me even though I feel like I know you from reading your column every day for years). Just let me know if you are interested. Thanks, Tammy

Surprisingly perhaps, of all the responses I received to that column, Tammy’s was the only one that simply offered to buy the phone for the same amount I’d been offered by Decluttr. I responded …

Dear Tammy: I’m usually a little nervous about selling anything to someone I know, only because I’d feel terrible if they were dissatisfied or something happened to the item in transit. Curiously, I haven’t formally made the deal with Decluttr yet, so my phone is still here with me. If you feel comfortable, tell me about your family. Where do you live? What is your daughter doing this summer and what are her hopes and dreams?

That message prompted several more as we chatted back and forth. I learned that daughter Kelsey is an amazing teen, an excellent student who excels in sports and is very active in her church youth organization. Her summer project was to build a solid wood armoire with her dad! Through our emails, I learned a lot about Tammy’s entire family—so much so that I felt like I’d known them for years.

Dear Tammy: What a great story and what a wonderful family. Thanks for introducing me to all the Deatons.

Here’s my counter offer: Send me your mailing address. I’ll put the phone into the mail first thing on Monday. Check it out and make sure you can get it set up with a data plan and all.

Then, as you are able and you see a need in your community, use the money you might have spent for a phone to bless someone or some project there. Thanks for contacting me. This is blessing me far more than if I’d sent the phone off to Decluttr!


Dear Mary: Oh my. That is an incredibly generous and kind offer. I am afraid you may have misinterpreted why I wrote back with our family story. I did not mean to give you the impression we can’t afford to pay you for the phone.

The reason I gave you so many details about our situation is that I wanted to be a witness to the fact that everything that you communicate to the public is true— you CAN live within your means, you CAN live debt-free, you CAN live simply, you CAN go without all the latest fashions and material things and still be quite happy. Not only is it possible, but it is quite liberating and can open up all kinds of opportunities to pursue what is truly important to you (in our case, high-quality family time).

Please accept my apology if I made you feel bad for our situation. That was not my intent. Tammy


Dear Tammy: It didn’t cross my mind that you were financially needy! Truly it didn’t. I like the idea of a “paying it forward” kind of thing. And I love your family!

So my offer stands. I’d love to send you the phone for Kelsey as a blessing you hadn’t expected, and allow that to prompt you to bless someone God puts in your path and prompts you to bless in some way.


Dear Mary: I very humbly accept your offer. I am a fan, too, of “paying it forward” and am looking forward to the opportunity to bless someone else with the kindness you have put into motion with your generous actions. Tammy

I packed up that adorable, bright green, iPhone 5C and off to the Post Office it went for delivery to Kelsey. After a few weeks, I got this most beautifully handwritten note in the mail.

Mrs. Hunt: Thank you so much for the fantastic iPhone. Your generosity and thoughtfulness has really touched me.

My mom and I bought 44 pairs of jeans to donate to the charity program in our district.

This program, which we are involved in, provided the less fortunate kids in our local school with an outfit, school supplies and other needs for the coming school year.

The phone has been working beautifully. We connected it with our plan and it works great.

Once again, than you for your generosity. This world needs more people like you who think of others’ needs first.

The needy children in our school will greatly enjoy and appreciate your thoughtfulness. God bless! Kelsey Deaton*

*names have been changed to protect true identities