Monday, December 12, 2011

My holiday request to you

I don't want to use my blog for a social message, but I feel like I need to get this out. To tell this story just in case you might be able to relate and help someone. This is longer than I'd like; my apologies in advance.

I live in a very blue collar neighborhood outside of Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. It's the kind of place where not everyone speaks the same language, but everyone looks out for each other. Your neighbors help you haul furniture, other neighbors help fix your roof, and other neighbors plow your sidewalk and/or driveway simply because they like to fire up their snowblower. (Yes, all of these neighborly situations have happened to me and I am eternally grateful.)

One neighbor, a Korean War vet--we'll call him L, helps everyone almost to the point of being TOO nice. So two years ago, when the woman down the street broke her leg and needed someone to take her oldest daughter to the food store, L stepped in, happy to help.

I watched this summer as the oldest daughter continued to use L for rides at all hours of the day. He took her downtown with her friends, he put her on his cell phone plan, and he even "borrowed" her money, thinking he would get it back.

When I asked my other neighbor about it, she advised I not get involved. "What if she slices your tires or throws rocks through your windows?" she asked. I was appalled that A) she thinks our neighborhood is THAT bad, and B) that she thought I'd care. I have insurance. Go ahead, smash my windows. I need new ones anyway. Bring it on, 16 year old punk. I'm not afraid of you....

A few weeks ago, L told me the whole story. When he recently tried to put an end to giving money, the daughter and her friends bullied him and pushed him down on the sidewalk. He continued to give her money out of fear.

Guys, this girl lives ON MY BLOCK. Oh, hell no. My hackles go up just THINKING about what I would've done if I had seen a 16-yr old girl push down a 75+yr old man!

L told me how over the past year, he hocked his gold Shriner's ring and sold his old pick up, along with any other valuables he had, and took a loan against his house. As a result of giving this girl so much money, he was unable to pay for his property taxes, food, gas, or dog food.

Today, I took L a loaf of banana bread and a tin of holiday cookies, something I do every year to say thanks for all the snowblowing he does. He stood in his doorway and cried as he told me he finally had some money to put toward his property taxes. He told me how the local sheriff personally calls him every week or two just to make sure he's okay.

So why am I telling all of you about this?

I have a simple holiday request that stands year-round:  If you have any reason to believe that someone you care about or an elderly member of your community is in need of help, or is being swindled or bullied, do something.

It doesn't have to be anything drastic. Call your local police station and ask for a wellness check. Or look online. I know my county has a confidential line specifically set up for calls related to elder abuse.

Knowing this girl in our neighborhood took advantage of L, an innocent older man, makes me livid. L now has a restraining order against her and hasn't had any problems in the past month or so. We're keeping our fingers crossed that this is behind us.

If you've read this far, thank you. I promise to be back on Wed with something a bit more writerly-related and less depressing.


  1. Wow, did that escalate out of control! What a terrible young woman.

  2. That's absolutely terrible. I'm glad your neighbor finally did something about it. And I wish I lived in a community as close as yours!

  3. I cannot believe that a 16 year old girl has the gall to take advantage of an elderly man. That is just not done. I have always been taught to respect the elderly, and one day that girl will have it coming to her, because what goes around comes around.

  4. Heartbreaking! I'm glad you shared... I haven't run into this kind of problem personally, though I have heard other stories about it. We have a lot of foreign students in our town attending the University, I like to ask them what surprised them most about the US. Sometimes they say good things, like how friendly we are. But several time I've heard them say how shocked they were at how elders are un-valued in our society.

  5. Thanks, everyone. It was worse in the summer because she wasn't in school. I hate to say it, but I'm waiting until next May to really decide if this is over or not. In the meantime, many of us are now aware of the situation so L has multiple sets of eyes looking out for him.

    And Margo, I agree. As a society, we don't really treat our elders with the same respect as many other cultures do. It makes me so sad.

  6. That poor man. What on earth makes someone think they can treat another person like that? I hope for his sake that, as you say, it's all a thing of the past.

    And how lucky he is to have you and the rest of the community around him :)

  7. Thanks for sharing. Glad everything seems to be getting better.

  8. i wrote this big response and then effing blogger ate it. Suffice it to say, i do not approve of that girl. Not one bit. I may have called her a name in my original comment and it may have started with a "b".
    True story.

  9. Unbelievable that someone would repay kindness with intimidation and bullying. I would speculate that drugs are involved to make someone so hateful, but anymore it doesn't have to be the case. Some people are just born a**holes.

  10. I'm so horrified by this story. This poor man and this awful girl. :-(

  11. Thank you for sharing this. Messages like this need to get out! Though I've never run into something like what you describe (thank goodness! I'd have a few choice words for that gal), I'll be on the look-out for anything similar in my neighborhood.

  12. That's when ALL the neighbors should band together and stand up to little miss bully. Oh, I'd be livid, too. I read every word of this and she's lucky I have no idea where she lives. Oh, BTW, the bullying happens in the upper-middle class neighborhoods, too. It's just as mean and ugly but a little less obvious at times.

    *deep breath*

    Okay, thanks so much for checking out my book trailer over at Alex's blog. I love your site so much that I joined through Google Connect. :)

  13. That would make me livid too. The taking advantage of the kindness of neighbors happens here, although not to the extent of physical abuse--that is horrible.
    I'm glad the problems have stopped.

  14. That is unreal. I wonder if her mother had any idea she was extorting that old man like that. She's lucky she only got a restraining order, that's behavior worthy of jail time for sure. Kudos to you and your neighbors for supporting each other!


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