QUESTION: We have a family member who we know is struggling financially. He was in a car accident, not his fault, and has been off work for six months and cannot yet go back to work. His injury case has not settled.
We were told by another family member that he is in danger of losing his house. He has two children and, although his wife works, there doesn’t seem to be enough income to make ends meet. The family member who told us of his plight also told us that he is reluctant to accept help, even though there are several family members who can afford to help and are willing to.
We had a little meeting on our own (six of us), and we decided to give the family whatever it takes to keep the house and their expenses current. We do not expect to be paid back. We want this to be a gift with no strings attached. We welcome your advice on how to make this happen.
~ Family Quandary
Dear Family Quandary,
It’s wonderful that your family is in a position to help a financially struggling member. These days many are not so fortunate. If you are absolutely certain your relative’s home is threatened, there are some possibilities that occur to me.
The family member who has the best relationship with him could approach him and his wife, unless she’s the relative telling you of their difficulties, and explain that it is truly better to give than receive; the givers are able to feel good about themselves. It is simply a chance occurrence that he had an accident and cannot work. There is no shame in an unforeseeable accident and subsequent insurance difficulties. You can emphasize that later, when he is back on his feet financially, he can pay it forward to another deserving family member or anyone else. Keep Your Home California may be able to help. If your relative hasn’t explored this option, their website, http://keepyourhomecalifornia.org/, has information on a number of programs.
Lastly, you could try contacting the financial institution that holds the mortgage on the home. Perhaps there is a way to make an anonymous payment to cover the amount in arrears. If you are successful in getting your relative to accept your help none of the people involved should ever bring it up again.
Wishing your relative a speedy recovery,
Dear Family in a Quandary,
First let me express appreciation for you wanting to help out. I am always grateful for generous hearted persons in our world. Often, money is the one issue that can divide families, create hurt feelings and even divorce or lawsuits. So to have you gather together to offer your gift is an important step.
Second, I am not sure what you are talking about as far as a gift. If the family situation is that they have a home and mortgage, and you are concerned about them losing the house, this is a complicated matter, one that may need guidance from a financial counselor. Our church just completed a Financial Peace University class taught by David Ramsey who has helped thousands get out of debt and helped them figure out what choices they need to make to be free from debt. One option is to find a qualified financial counselor and have them help map out a strategy for their financial situation. Getting a coach for finances costs very little in comparison with making poor choices.
Once there is a plan in place, that will help them see what their options are, then they can make the decisions they need to make.
Your gift to them can be part of their goal to recover from the debt they are facing, and can be seen as part of what they need to do to meet their goals. You can sponsor them attending a class. Just go to the David Ramsey Financial Peace University website and you can find a class in our area.
Third, depending on the size of your gift, it can be designated in a certain way to help them with their situation. The hardest part is facing up to the reality of your situation. Hopeful thinking, denial, and thinking it will just blow over are ways that families get in way over their head and end up on a downward slide. I can’t tell you how many homeless folks I have talked to who have had their lives turned upside down in a very short period of time who did not understand how precarious their financial situations were until one day it all changed.
Lastly, supporting them in simple ways, talking to them, taking them out for dinner, or bringing them dinner, praying for them, are simple ways to transmit your care and concern for them.
Again, thank you for your caring concern and willingness to help! May God bless your actions.
Rev. Steve Poteete-Marshall
Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church
QUESTION: When a person one cares about has gained considerable weight, is there a kind and loving way to speak to them without causing a broken relationship? Quite frankly, I don’t know what to say. I’m concerned about a dear friend who I’ve known for over 40 years. As a teenager, she was overweight. She then went on a weight loss program, and was trim and fit for at least 22 years. About three years ago, she began gaining weight again, and didn’t seem to care. My concern is for her health because she has numerous health challenges including high blood pressure.
I’m a Christian and I want to do the right thing to support her, or should I just leave the subject alone?
~ Loving Friend
Dear Loving Friend,
It seems to me that you are a caring friend who is genuinely concerned about the health of your friend. And your concern about whether you should talk to her and how to talk to her is valid. However, there is no easy answer to your question. There are so many variables.
I would suggest that you prayerfully take time to evaluate the situation. First I’d look at myself. Do I sincerely care about my friend and does she know that I care? Do we have the kind of friendship that allows us to talk about the difficult topics? Does she have permission to talk to me about areas in my life that need improvement? (We all have areas that need some work.) Finally, are you willing to be there for her if she decides to deal with this issue?
Second, I’d prayerfully consider my friend. Is she the kind of person who is able to handle this kind of input? Right now, is her emotional state strong enough to receive this information? How has she handled this kind of conversation in the past? Some people are able to receive the loving negative feedback from a friend and others, for whatever reason, are not able to. If you have any reservation on any of these questions, you might not be the right person to bring up this topic. But if you sense that both you and she are ready for this kind of conversation, then carefully and prayerfully consider when and what you are going to say. Be sure to begin by affirming your love for her and concern for her health. Be careful to listen to her response. There may be some emotional or medical causes behind her weight gain. If there is an emotional basis for her weight gain, then counseling might be needed. A spirit of love and humility will go a long ways towards having a meaningful and productive conversation.
May God give you much love and wisdom as you reflect on these questions. Your friend is lucky to have someone like you in her life.
Pastor Bill Flanders
First Baptist Church at La Crescenta
Dear Loving Friend,
That’s what you are, a loving friend, and that’s all any of us can be when our friends are going through painful life situations. In 1999, I was seven years sober and my marriage was falling apart. I had two small children at home and I had acted out in such a way that was causing a lot of pain and discord in my marriage. Instead of talking about it, I decided to start drinking again. A very close friend of mine who was also sober in AA, though very concerned about me, my marriage, my children, was the most loving a friend could be by allowing me the dignity to find my way through it all without shaming me, guilting me or making me feel any worse than I already felt.
And I felt horrible. I felt worthless, I felt like a failure and I was horribly ashamed. After the marriage fell apart and I found my way back into the rooms of AA and sobriety, I talked to my friend about our relationship and she said, “I loved you and prayed for you, and let you work your way through it on your own. I just wanted you to know that I would always be here for you when you were ready to ask for help.”
We don’t need friends pointing out our failings, we need friends to love us when we are ready to face our failings and begin to do the long, arduous spiritual and emotional work it takes to heal from our own brokenness. All any of us want is to be really seen, really heard, really loved for who we are. And all of any of us can do is be willing to be that person for the ones we love.
Holly Cardone, MDiv., Postulant
St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church