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.