I didn’t sleep well last night. I tuned into the 11 o’clock news and learned about a Taunton homeowner in foreclosure who committed suicide on the day her home was scheduled to be auctioned. Since Wednesday is Storm Preparation day, the news story prompted me to get down to the nitty-gritty of things: reaching out.
I believe that one of the reasons why this situation with the Taunton homeowner strikes me so hard is because in the last several months, I have met several people who have waited a long time to reach out for help. For some, they waited too long and I have been able to help them. For others, I have been able to point them in what I hope was the right direction. And for a few, I have learned that there is nothing I can possibly do.
It’s the people I cannot help that keep me up at night…and yesterday, I spent some time with someone who I believe may be beyond help. I have the duty of informing someone who has lived in their home for more than half a century that they will lose it to foreclosure. Could it have been avoided? Maybe. Did they ask for help too late? You bet. Is there anything I can do to help this homeowner keep their house? It will take a miracle. Do all of the answers to these question give me some reassurance that I’ve done all I can? Not really, and for no other reason that I cannot imagine getting up every morning and looking out the same windows, and seeing the same trees, bushes and roads. And I cannot imagine, other than leaving this earthly place, what it would feel like to have to let it go. This is a reality that cannot be ignored.
So when I heard the news, all I could think of was “why didn’t this person reach out for help?” I know may have been a lot of reasons, the move obvious being embarrassment. For others, it is denial (or hope, depending on the perspective). But what I have learned in this practice that I can talk about the reasons why someone might not ask for help, or why they might not ask for help until it is too late. But ultimately, this blog can only deal with short and simple discussions. These issues are far, far too complex.
Today, one of my chapter 13 clients sent me an email: “The picture of that [Taunton] woman’s home was like every home in every neighborhood where I grew up.” That comment stuck with me.
We look all around us and see our communities and our neighbors, but for those that are hurting financially, no one openly discusses it. It may be embarrassment. It may be denial. It may be fear. As I have written many times here, many really are silently and quietly suffering. And as we have seen, when help is not sought or assistance is not extended, people will sometimes do what they feel they need to do. And sometimes, that will end up on the evening news.
So this week, in light of these events, I only have this to offer to those who are sitting under a financial dark cloud: there are far, far more people out there with financial problems than you think. Even knowing that, it can be difficult, if not completely impossible not to feel utterly and completely alone. But you do not have to be. Talk to you friends, your family, your pastor. Talk to your neighbors. Reach out, and you’re likely to find a comforting hand who will reach back.
Speaking of talking to your neighbors: in one news report, a neighbor admitted that she knew about the looming foreclosure of the Taunton house because a relative “saw it online.” Hindsight is 20/20, and please do not construe what I am about to suggest as a criticism of this neighbor. Nevertheless, if on-line or in the paper you see your neighbor’s/ relative’s/friend’s/co-worker’s house is in foreclosure, here’s an idea: put some cookies on a plate, and take them over to their house, and then consider saying something as simple as this:
“I’ve been thinking about you lately (or I’ve been hearing all of this news of this $#%@ economy) and I just wanted to let you know that (a) I’m here if you need me; or (b) I think it’s important for neighbors and friends to stick together during these tough times.” If they want to talk about it, great. If you can, let them know there’s help out there. If not, at least you have reached out. That’s something we all can do as we all look to weather the coming storm.
Storm Preparation is a weekly series appearing on Wednesdays and offers tips and information to people who think they may need bankruptcy protection in the future. Questions, comments or suggestions can be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Storm Preparation: Talk to Your Kids
- Storm Preparation: Stage Two, Anger
- Storm Preparation: Acceptance
- News on the Perfect Storm
- Storm Preparation: Plan B