Saturday, December 26, 2009

Helping a friend

At Shabbat lunch today (a lunch that I had NO intention of going to, until the 3 year old invited me) a friend was telling me about some trouble that she is having with medical bills. This friend has more health problems than anyone I know, but thankfully at the moment she is in good health.

For Chanukah, she asked her birth parents for money to pay her most recent hospital bill. Her birth parents instead bought her a DVD player. This, after the last time she asked for money to pay medical bills, they gave her a TV. And another time they gave her a Tiffany bracelet that she learned cost in the neighborhood of $5000. When my friend has complained, her "Mommy" (birth parents are Mommy and Daddy) said that "you have an Ima and Abba to help with medical bills." Ima and Abba are her adoptive parents, who have eight other kids (7 of whom are actually cousins whose parents were killed in a car accident) and don't have spare money lying around. After hearing this tale, I'm a little annoyed at her birth parents.

For Chanukah, I got a very significant chunk of change from my grandmother. I'm now thinking of using some of it to help my friend. So here are my questions:
1. Do I give it anonymously or openly?
2. Will she be offended?
3. Are there other factors I should consider?
4. If I want to give it anonymously, how (practically/logistically) do I do that?

Thanks for your help!


  1. I wrote a long reply but then it got lost in Blogger land.
    Basically it went something like this: If the bills have gone to collections, you could offer to use your ballsy lawyer skills to negotiate a decrease in the amount in exchange for a flat payment. And then you'd put some money towards that payment. (You'd talk it over with her first, though.) But I'm not sure that's the best way to handle those types of bills, so you may want to look into it. Even if she isn't willing to accept your money, though, if she's being hounded by creditors you might be able to write some letters for her so they give her some peace.

  2. If she was treated at a hospital, they might have a charity set up to pay the bills of needy patients. You may want to call their billing office to find out--it may be quite simple to direct your contribution to a given person.

    On another note, is it possible for her to sell or return the appliances or jewelry she got? I imagine she won't get the full value of it, but it could help. Perhaps you could offer to assist her with this (listing the items on craigslist, shlepping them to the store, whatever).

  3. Stacy, thankfully she was able to work a deal for the bracelet; she exchanged it for the least expensive thing in the store and got cash back for the difference; the TV she didn't know where it was purchased, and didn't think of selling it, so is now used. And while she'd rather have been given money, now that she HAS the DVD player, she's excited about it :-)

    Thanks to both of you for your suggestions!

  4. That's really sweet! It would be cool to help her out anonymously, but I think she also would appreciate it if you explained it like you did here--that you have some "extra" money right now and would really like to help her financially at this time. I'm all about "paying it forward" at this point when I feel like I have "extra" to give. What a great friend yo are :o)