I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I was born into poverty, pretty dire poverty actually, although it was never acknowledged in my family and I was too unobservant to realize it until I was older. My father had very poor health and was often unable to work. He had pride in abundance (together with right wing beliefs), however, and so refused any find of government benefits, regardless of how his family might suffer. So we frequently somehow survived on what my mother was able to earn in the days when few women did work and those who did were grossly underpaid. I was, however, also born with a drive, determination and stubbornness, together with an ability to book learn, and happened into the college years at a time when it was, if not affordable, at least reachable. Therefore, I was able to make sacrifices, work hard, and end up with a profession that enables me to live comfortably. If I'd wanted, it could have made me more than comfortable. However, for whatever reason, I've never had the desire for more than a modest style of living and therefore chose to practice my profession in such a way that I have been quite successful at avoiding becoming wealthy.
My problem? Few members of my family have experienced the same kind of luck. Oh, they all more or less make ends meet. None of them have lost their homes and they have food on the table and decent clothes. And unlike when we were growing up, they have working plumbing in their homes and cars that generally get them where they're going without breaking down.
But the debt. The never ending grinding debt. The figuring out how to pinch pennies to be able to go to the dentist, where there's already a big bill. The selling of a favorite piece of antique furniture to make this month's mortgage. The inability to go to a grandchild's graduation because there's no money for airfare. The trying to cobble another fix to the car so it can eke out another few miles. I see it constantly, and I feel so helpless about it. I don't have enough to solve these never ending emergencies and even if I did, they don't want to be rescued by or indebted to their little sister. But I sure would like to help without making them feel like failures or that they're taking handouts.
My guess is there are more people than just me in my position on this site; there must be more than a couple who are in a position to give a little help to those they see struggling around them, but who don't know how best to do it. And there are lots on here who are struggling. Who better than those who are struggling to give us somle advice on how to help?
In the past, I've tried to do things anonymously or pay for things in a way that they maybe don't realize how much it actually cost, so I could say their share was less or paying for things for their kids. And I've just out and out paid for things - but then always felt uncomfortable and like there was a certain level of resentment that I was acting the part of the rich relative (which we got to experience when we were kids and we hated).
I have had some relatives make comments about why I live modestly and tend to give away quite a lot (not only to relatives, btw) and wondering whether it's because I feel some kind of guilt or something, I've tried to explain that I do it both because I don't need or want more than I have and because I know I have what I have only through luck. Yes, I might have worked hard, but it was a matter of luck, not only that I was born with book brains, but that I was born with the drive and stubbornness and energy and health and all the other things it took. It's not like I was somehow inherently superior to others - in fact, in many areas of life, I'm inherently inferior. I was a stubborn, obnoxious, and according to my mother, selfish and lazy child. I didn't do any great and wondrous things for humanity to deserve an easier life than others. I just happened to be born with traits that got me where I am. And so I feel an obligation to share that good fortune. I think she got it a little bit, but I don't think others do. I think they wonder why I live in a modest house and wear average clothes (sometimes below average, since I hate to shop and so wear things past their expiration date), have few toys, and splurge only on the car I drive and taking a few extra trips.
So what I really want to do is to figure out how to help them out when I can in a way that will help them the most and make them the most comfortable. Or would it better for me to just stay out of their problems altogether and just give my excess money to charities? Since I'm in the midst right now of trying to figure out a way to help in a particular situation, it occurred to me that there's no place like Dkos for getting the down and dirty truth from people actually there, in the trenches, who will be able to actually identify with my family members. And maybe getting the knowledge from those in the trenches can also help out a few others on this site.
So - give me your experiences - or your fantasies - of someone coming along to help you out and how it made or would make you feel. Keeping in mind, this wouldn't be like winning the lottery and all financials problems be made to go away, but rather just a little help here and there. Let me know what offend you and what would not. Is it uncomfortable to get help from an anonymous source and would you rather know where it came from? Or is it easier to feel less of a sense of gratitude or whatever if you don't know who it came from? Are there certain expenses that you'd feel comfortable being taken care of? (I tend to try and pay for some of the "extras" in life - maybe a little trip - or to just sneak some cash into their bank account when I know there are worrisome bills). Is it more uncomfortable coming from a family member than a stranger? Are there certain levels of need that make it easier to accept?
Essentially any information that provides the perspective of those on the receiving end that can provide me with some guidance on what is actually the right way to handle the situation would be appreciated and helpful. I'll thank you in advance for your input.