Helping a Neighbor

Posted on February 15, 2009

Yesterday I had the opportunity to help out a local woman who was facing a little financial hardship.  She called the Union Leader to find a way to say thank you, knowing only my first name.  The paper then called the shop, found out my last name, and chased down the story that appeared in the paper today and that has been subsequently picked up in another places (

When the reporter reached me on my cell phone at a dinner with friends out of state, I asked her not to use my name.  As I said to her then, the purest form of generosity is anonymous and having the story spread widely would rob it of some of its magic for Pat and me.  Yet the online commentary and the many messages I’ve today received on e-mail and by phone suggest some truth to her retort: that the story could make some people feel good amidst the dreary economic news we’re subjected to day after day.

What struck me in my chance encounter with Nicole was that this young mother and wife is working fifty hours a week and still can’t pay her bills at week’s end, can’t afford teeth, and in this instance couldn’t afford basic safety maintenance on her old car.

We need to look again at what constitutes a living wage.  We need to do so at SNHU.  Shouldn’t a person working as hard as Nicole be able to cover the essentials?

As many of you know, Pat and I are involved with United Way and we give to various charities, and that is in many ways the best way to reach out and help.  People in need can’t rely on chance encounters and our local agencies do often heroic work.

Still, there was something very powerful and moving for me in seeing close up the grinding impact of structural poverty on the face of a younger working mother trying to do all the right things for her family.  The look of defeat on her face, the sense that this just announced expense was another straw added to a burden that might be just too much at some point, prompted my offer of help.

Most of the people I know would have done the same thing.

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