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?