Wicked Good Response to Haters

I didn’t have Bill Gates money. I didn’t have Warren Buffet money. I had a house. -Tony Tolbert

If you have decided to give your house away, you probably put a lot of thought into it. You probably did some soul searching as well. If, like Tony Tolbert, you are an attorney, you probably took the necessary precautions to mitigate risks – he leased his Los Angeles home to a homeless family for one year – for a dollar a month.

Then there was selecting a family. No substance abuse. No criminal court entanglements. Mr. Tolbert found the Dukes family, a family of five that slipped into homelessness while their primary caregiver was in the hospital.

Making it happen was pretty simple, at 51 Mr. Tolbert moved back in with his mother and the Dukes family would move into his house for a year to give them an opportunity to get back on their feet.

Even so, there were haters – and lots of them:

“He will eventually get the house back and it will be trashed and in need of thousands in repair.”

“Nice guys usually finish last.”

“They will not be respectful of his home, and it may be in tatters when it is returned to him.”

“No good deed goes unpunished.”

“One year from now she’ll be suing for support.”

On one hand, Mr. Tolbert wanted to give. But there was a piece of Mr. Tolbert that struggled with sentiments similar to the haters. He admits that he had to come to terms with giving up the physical and sentimental comfort of his house. But that wasn’t all. What if he gave up his house for a year and nothing good came from it? Or what if it turned out bad? He also had to give up “any particular result or outcome.” Mr. Tolbert discovered “generosity in its truest sense,” giving with no expectations of getting anything back.

That was his wicked good response to haters. He chose to do a good thing, even if – despite all his work to make it turn out good – it turned out bad.


Something remarkable happened. Personal performance coach Orlando Bishop heard what Mr. Tolbert had done and agreed to coach the Dukes family for free. A local dentist heard and offered free dental care. And at the end of the year, the Dukes family moved into an apartment with money in savings and a commitment to “never live paycheck to paycheck again.”

A good ending made for a good story, but here is the point. Moving back in with your mother so that a family in need could use your house for a year was a noble act in and of itself. How the Dukes family chose to respond did not add to or take away from Mr. Tolbert’s noble act. The Dukes family had to independently decide if their response would be noble.

Mr. Tolbert believes that a greater principle was at work:

Kindness creates kindness. Generosity creates generosity. Love creates love. If we can have more stories about people doing nice things for other people, and fewer stories about people doing horrible things to other people, that’s a better world.1

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Author’s Aside:
If you remember the A-Team, you might understand that while I was drafting this story I abbreviated Mr. T. to “Mr. T.” and even got a chuckle or two out of imagining Mr. T. with a Mohawk and gold chains around his neck. I could hear him saying, “I pity the fool.” I pity the fool that never does anything good because he is afraid it might turn out bad.

  1.  ©2015 Brandon L. Blankenship, Creative Commons Momliness by Leon Fishman is licensed under CC by 2.0
About The Author

Brandon Blankenship

Brandon L. Blankenship is a continuing legal education presenter and business educator. He is the author of Unmasking Hour. He writes weekly posts on the legal industry and is a contributor to the Nobility Academy. He and his wife Donnalee live on their hobby farm south of Birmingham, Alabama.