I was scrolling through my friends’ updates on social media — proud announcements, vacation photos, smiling children and grandchildren — when Elaine’s post stopped me. “Tomorrow I will become homeless,” she wrote.
At first I didn’t know how to respond. Elaine and I have lived in the same small town for nearly twenty years. Now and then we meet for coffee. Years ago, when I found out she served on the board of a prominent religious organization, we got to talking about faith and discovered that, despite our different paths, we had similar beliefs. I enjoy her incisive humor and contagious laugh. For a living she cares for the elderly in their homes, but several of her clients had recently died or moved to nursing facilities. Combined with mounting debt, this left her unable to pay rent.
Elaine’s stark revelation moved me. That night I called her to ask how I could help. Then, with her permission, I sat down at my kitchen counter and sent an e-mail about her plight to everyone I know, along with a link to an online fundraising campaign.
I’d never imagined any friend of mine losing the roof over her head, and I was haunted by the despair I’d heard in Elaine’s voice over the phone. I also admired her for being so vulnerable in a public forum. When we keep our frailties to ourselves, it can perpetuate the illusion that we struggle alone.
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The morning after I sent my appeal, I was startled to find that donations from friends and strangers had been rolling in overnight. By lunchtime Elaine had received more than a thousand dollars, much of it from people neither of us had ever met. Their generosity would allow her to pay off her debt as well as another month’s rent — and what it has done for her spirit is immeasurable. One more month’s rent. One more issue in your mailbox. One more reminder that we’re all in this together.
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