Friday, December 9, 2011

no thanks

Last week a friend of mine sent a message on Facebook asking for donations to bring back to the village that she grew up in.  She was soliciting on behalf of a family friend who had lost his leg in a car accident and was having difficulties providing for his two children.  When I saw her husband on Wednesday I gave him an envelope with some money.

On Thursday she called to thank me.  She was weeping.  She told me how grateful she was and that the money would help her to buy metal sheeting to make walls for her friend's home.  He had no walls.  My mind was reeling; he didn't even have walls.

Later that night I told SB how rotten I felt that she was thanking me so much when all I did was give what I was comfortable with giving.  It made me feel good to know that my money was going to help someone who very desperately needed help but it wasn't like I was doing anything really special.  I should be thanking my friend because she is simply amazing.  I have never seen pictures of her village but I have a feeling that it isn't exactly affluent.  She works hard in a restaurant so that she can send money home to her family.  Her difficult waitress job has helped to build a home for her father and now is building a home for a disabled friend.  She works miserable hours but rarely complains because in her mind she is living the dream.  She is married to a wonderful man who provides her with a home and support yet she doesn't want to tax him to provide for her family so she earns money for the houses while he earns money for the two of them.  I think she would warm even the Grinch's cold, black heart.


Anonymous said...

These sort of situations are desperately hard. As someone who is (for a few more weeks) married to a Filipina (I assume you talk of the Philippines, but it could equally be any other SE Asian country) I have seen at first hand the grinding poverty that exists in rural villages there. And yes it is very easy to be sucked into giving a few dollars here, a few dollars there.

The problem is that there is no end to this. I have given substantial amounts of money to help my (soon to be ex-) wife's family in many ways. But I have been forced to draw a line - I have, in effect, condemned people to death because I said that they were not within the group of people whose medical bills I would pay. It is very, very hard to do. But if you don't then you can basically be sucked into bankruptcy. You need to have clear rules about what you will and won't support or pay for. Otherwise people will just keep coming after you for money, time and time again.

I don't want to sound cold-hearted about this, and I have spent tens of thousands of (US) dollars on medical and other assistance for people who I basically don't know. But I strongly advise you to be very careful, and to draw a clear line about what you will and will not support, sooner rather than later. The alternative is much more painful.

architart said...

I am all too familiar with the typical tales of woe. My mother used to warn me about this and no visit home was complete without several "cousins" sharing hardships and asking for cash. My mother also cautioned me about avoiding flattering statements about my family's finances though we saw other expats strutting like peacocks under such fawning statements and then being pressured to hand over cash. We were friends with a ridiculous fellow Vietnamese woman who drained her husband's savings whenever she went home because she had told everyone that she was rolling in cash and then felt obligated to prove it.

The reason why my friend (who is Thai) warms my cold heart is because she doesn't ask her husband for money but goes about earning it herself. Our family's Vietnamese friend would never have stooped to earning any of the money that she handed out so benevolently on anyone who fawned over her.