Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Where Do You Draw The Line?

Imagine move to a new apartment and just as you're settling in, there's a knock at the door. A young mother is standing there with a baby on her hip and two little ones in tow. She's the neighbor upstairs and needs to use the phone.

No problem.

Come to find out, she's a single mom with no car, no drivers license, no job, no schooling, no money, and no family. The father of her children went out for groceries two nights ago with her EBT card (food stamps and cash assistance) and never came back. (Come to find out, he withdrew $80 cash from the card and ultimately stole from his children's mouths.) The baby is out of formula, diapers and wipes. The diaper he's in now is soaked and stinky. Tears start to well up in your eyes as you image your life in this mothers shoes. No way to get to the store and no money to get what she needs.

She can't find her boyfriend and doesn't know what to do. Your first thought? Jump in the car and buy the necessities for the mother and children you just met. You spend your own's no problem, you want to help. You feel so good at the end of the day that you helped someone in need, and you sleep like a baby that night.

However, the weeks and months follow with daily inquiries for help.

"Can you take me to the store?"
"Will you pick up a package of pampers? Here's $2."
"Can you watch the baby?"
"I don't have any money, will you buy me this and that?"

Then the requests start to become tiresome and unimaginably frequent. In fact, it's becoming such a habit that you begin to feel taken advantage of. Every time the phone rings or there's a knock at the door, you cringe.

After awhile, simple errands that you run for your own personal reasons become the business of this neighbor. You bring home a snack from McDonald's and she asks where hers is, making you feel guilty for not bringing her any. Then she tries to make you feel bad because you have a husband that provides for you and your family, that you have a car and she doesn't, and that you are in college bettering yourself with education.

Then she learns she's pregnant and doesn't know who the father is. There's many complications with the first trimester of her pregnancy and you find yourself calling 911 several times on her behalf. You care for her children while she's in the hospital, even when you feel it's her families responsibility to step in.

The father of her children eventually shows up after spending time in jail. He seems nice and all, but you can't get out of your mind what he did to her the first time you met her. You wonder how she could allow him back into her home. Then the fighting begins. There's yelling and crying at all hours and bumping around. Then one day she comes to the door with a bloody nose. You do what you can to help. But now it's becoming ridiculous.

After all of this, you find out that this neighbor is speaking ill of you behind your back. She starts to give you the cold shoulder and begins to behave rudely towards your children. Her mom took one look at you, and with her impeccable judge of character, pegs you as a troublemaker.


Now she doesn't speak to you at all. Never thanks you for your help. Never offers to pay you back for all the money you spent on them...which you later add up and realize the total is close to $100.

Can you feel it? Can you feel the injustice of being taken advantage of by someone who preyed on your vulnerability to help those in need? Do you shake your head as you try to wonder how someone can treat a person in such a way?

This has been my life for the past 6 months, and although I don't miss running all over for her, I do feel that I was wronged to be treated so poorly. It makes me wonder about the humanity in this world we live in, where someone can be so disrespectful toward an individual who does nothing but make life easier for them.

I still am at a loss for words when I think about how much I did for this poor, single, pregnant mom and how she felt it was owed to her. Now that she doesn't need me anymore, she's moved on to another tenant in the complex for all her needs.

The question I still have is, "Where do you draw a line?" Helping others in need is important, but when do you say "NO" when it becomes too much?
I don't know. I just don't know.

1 comment:

Ames said...

I remember you telling me about helping this woman. I recall how good you felt in being able to help her. I agree with you that the worst part is her ingrattitude and change of attitude towards you.