Monday, May 6, 2013

To Give or Not to Give

My kitchen sink full, I turn on the small countertop TV to occupy my mind while doing the mindless chore of washing dishes. Five seconds later, TV talk show host/comedian Steve Harvey says, “Broke people are broke for a reason.”

Six Years Ago:

Walking through a department store at the mall, I see a big grin on a face behind the jewelry counter that looks familiar. “Where have I seen her?” I wonder. As I walk closer, she says, “I’m Carolyn. You’ve seen me at church!” Hence, the beginning of our relationship, which is me saying hello to her and making small talk at the mall for 5 minutes each time I’m there walking through her store (about every  other month) and for 10 seconds at church as I’m racing home to have a meal.
Four Years Ago:
Carolyn calls me at home. “This is different,” I think. “I wonder what’s up.
Basically, she’s broke and needs money to pay her car note. The car has been repossessed and she needs it to get to work; to a job that she is trying to leave when she finds a better job. Carolyn is humble and forthright in telling me the woes of her situation; i.e. low paying job, daughter in school, etc. Then she tells me how much the payment is; says that others have given her most of it and that the small amount left is what she would be grateful for if my husband and I can give it to her.
So we do; we even round it up.
Carolyn is very happy and wants to do something for us. “Can I call you when there’s a sale going on at the store? Can I pray for you?”
Three Years Ago:
Carolyn calls me at home again.  I don’t have to wonder what’s up. I just listen to the story and wait for how much. She has gotten married to someone who is as broke as she is and who goes to stay with a relative (without her) when they get evicted. There is no way that we will fund her with the money that it will take to get “back on her feet,” but we give her a small amount that she can use for gas or groceries. We feel sorry for her because we see that she is trying. Now she works two jobs.
Two Years Ago:
Carolyn is living in a hotel (or motel) that is set up for people who need temporary housing because of financial difficulties. She calls me to say that she is alright; that she is comfortable, but still needs help. This time, she asks me to fill out forms that verify the monetary gifts we’ve given her—I assume, to prove to the state that she has not been able to thrive on her salary. I suppose she is applying for food stamps or some other financial assistance.
I get the form in the mail within a couple days, fill in the minimal information and mail it back.
A Year and a Half Ago:
Yes, I get another call. The car has been repossessed again.  I tell her that we can’t help; that we are helping my father-in-law who is sick and bedridden, that we’ve given to others, and that we have to limit the amount of money we give.
Carolyn says she understands.
It’s been over a year since I’ve seen or spoken to Carolyn. I hope she’s gotten her life together.
I’ve never had to ask for money and have never borrowed money from anyone; excluding car and house loans from banks throughout the years. So what does that make me? Lucky?  Frugal? Wise? Blessed? Maybe it’s just that I’ve lived within my means.
What happened with Carolyn? What is her reason for being “broke?”
Some may think that we shouldn’t have given her anything; others may think differently. I’m comfortable with the decisions we made; however, there will be another Carolyn, eventually, and we will have to decide if we should help or not.
If my husband and I lost our income or suffered a health crisis, could we be in a position to need or want financial help from people we know? Bad things do happen to good people. I’m trying to relate, but somehow, it's hard. And maybe that’s a good thing.
Do you give or loan money to friends and relatives? Have friends and family given or lent money to you?


joeh said...

Never loan money to family or friends, only give what you can afford to lose. If they later offer to pay some back, fine, otherwise assume it was a gift.

It seems as that is what you did. But you can't just pour it into a hole can you.

Cathy said...

joeh says it all!

Mum had all these old sayings - 'Never a Borrower nor a Lender be' was one of them. But Mum I'd say, that's not very christian like is it. You'll learn from experience was her reply.

'Once bitten twice shy' - learn from experience as I did!!

Take care
link to w/press blog

Cathy @ Still Waters

Unknown said...

Yeah this is a tough situation to be in... as someone who is regularly struggling financially I know what it's like to have to go to family for some support... on the other hand, an agreement is an agreement...

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Tabor said...

Yes, I have given (never loaned) money to a son that used to have money problems. But for the last 5 years he seems to have figured out how to be more financially responsible. You have to evaluate who the person is, how well you know them, and accept the fact that they may be 'losers' after all.

Mari said...

That's a tough situation. I like to help but sometimes things never improve. I've given money to help out, but have never been pulled into a long term situation like this one.

Shelly said...

We, too, have a couple of people who semi regularly ask for money, and others who do on a one time basis. It's the ones who call me on a cell phone that is much nicer than mine that we decline-

Unknown said...

This is a difficult situation Anita. Yes, we have given money. But we try to only give it when we can totally release it with joy and never expect anything in return. It's hard to not have expectations attached to your gift. Of course you want to help. You want the person to do better next time, to get back on their feet, to make wise choices. Unfortunately your friend Carolyn's problem does not sound temporary, but more like she has a chronic situation that is deeper than we can know. Something needs to change that money can not fix. It's sad, but it's very hard to change people and the reasons they end up struggling.

I'm trying very hard to not blame the person struggling. I have been there myself and it is not pleasant. We have borrowed money (and paid it back) and we did get back on our feet. We learned from our mistakes. But sometimes money issues are deeper than money if that makes any sense.

Thought provoking once again Anita!
Julie Magers Soulen Photography

Abby said...

Oooh, that's a toughie. I understand fully you wanting to help her get on her feet, but it sounds like it was becoming a cycle with her.
Personally, I hate the thought of having to borrow or accept money from anyone to take care of my needs. Living frugally and within our means is important to my husband and me both, and is less painful than the thought of borrowing.

Barb said...

As a young woman, I received grants, loans, and scholarships to complete my education. Now, when I choose to give, I try to have no expectations and no judgements. I never expect return - that is just asking for disappointment and grief. However, I guess the operative word is "choose." I'm the lucky one because I do have a choice - hopefully, I choose wisely.

Peaches Ledwidge said...

I've had some bad times and couldn't wait for my position to change.

Unknown said...

Wow, that is a tough situation. I've given money or gifts of GC for food etc to friends in need. It was unasked for. I have a friend who has had many problems, financial and health wise. It's hard to know what is right. I don't think we are that far from being in need if my husband lost his job, we have savings and retirement monies but things can turn on a dime.

Hilary said...

I've offered money to friends in need and I believe I've always been turned down. In other instances, if someone has asked for help, I'd much rather gift them with the money, if I can. I'd prefer that over a loan. It does make a difference who the person is though - their track record - how close we are. Too many factors come into play but if it was Carolyn and me.. I think it would play out exactly the same way it did with you.

Unknown said...

I think that you were put in an awkward position from the start. It sounds like although you knew her, you weren't close friends with her. In that case, it would've been fine to say, "As much I would like to help, I can't but I promise, I will pray that your circumstances gets better." If she didn't get it from you, she would probably get help from someone else. Some people are known for not being able to manage their money. She may also have a spending problem. Because you are givers, you have to really be in tune, like you said, to whom it is that is asking. What is the circumstance? Would giving the money guarantee it will be a matter of life or death? Is there another person or agency that may be able to assist? I have been in your shoes but when I lost my job and before I got married, I shamefully had to lean on my daughter to help out until I was able to get on my feet again.

Rob-bear said...

On several occasions I've given money to people when they were at the end of their ropes. Never wanted it back. One was a guy who lost everything in Katrina. Etc.


1. Article in The New York Times of March 27th. "Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead?" Hmmmm.

2. The North American economy is structured to reward those at the top of the earnings ladder, to punish those at the bottom, and to provide little or nothing to those in the middle. Over the last 40 years, when taking inflation into account, incomes for the middle class have barely risen a all.

3. There is a rough balance between the number of empty, foreclosed houses and the number of people who are homeless. This is not an accident.

Blessings and Bear hugs!
Bears Noting
Life in the Urban Forest (poetry)

InSeason Mom Cynthia said...

I have given money to friends and relatives in need. However, I do not believe I’m helping them to become responsible if I continuously do so. I really believe in the Chinese Proverb: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Jenny said...

We struggle with this issue constantly with our youngest daughter.

Almost thirty, she has chosen a life of heroin and hiding.

It is sadly brutal to know of it.

But I keep reminding myself...every time I help her it tells her she can't make it on her own.

And I try to tell myself that sometimes you can kill someone by loving them.

Horrible lessons.

You never know, Anita. You might have done her a huge favor by saying no.

Hugs and peace to you.

Rebecca S. said...

I don't think we can have hard and fast rules about these things. Every situation is different as are the people involved. We give if we can without crippling ourselves, is my motto. However, I have had personal experiencing witnessing a family member trying to milk my parents for money because he could not keep his lifestyle within his means, and they finally had to cut him off, not of love, but of money.

When I was first married I borrowed money from my grandad for a deposit on a car loan through the bank. He charged me 7% interest. I paid him back faithfully, but was a little bit hurt at the time. However, now I can see why he did it, as he had one been 'bitten' and was now 'twice shy.'

I think you were kind to your friend and did what you could, and yes, if we have money to lend/give others, we are indeed the lucky ones.

yonca said...

I can't give a certain answers for this. I had a hardtime ones to pay our rent when my husband out of job and I wasn't working either.
But we paid back. We help each other in family but getting financial help, borrowing is more harder statuation then helping someone for me.