Lately, I am surrounded by need, and I am overwhelmed by it all. A beloved and sick cat makes another mess. People close to me who are struggling with depression tap my energy stores. The homeless shelter that gratefully took the forty-five individual art supply bags for their resident children and teens asks us to return. A local family has extreme needs that I cannot solve.
I’ve helped my kitty as much as I can, and I accept that her time is sadly near. For those struggling with depression, I can offer my support and counsel. I can call and visit, be cheerful or thoughtful. For the shelter, I can feel proud of our accomplishment in my Girl Scout troop’s giving so many kids something a little nice that may help pass the time. I can keep my opened eyes aware of other ways I can contribute, and alert others to the possibilities.
But this needy family is a problem I can’t solve, and I could use some counsel. I’ve been involved for a few months, enough to know that the mom is mentally handicapped and manipulative and untrustworthy. I’ve given the family furniture, which promptly disappeared. I gave them food once, so I get asked for food now whenever the mom doesn’t feel like going to get it. When I offered to drive her to a local food distribution center, she said she’d get another ride. They run up a phone bill, and then ask me or another friend of mine for hundreds of dollars to pay it — which, of course, we can’t. Drugs may or may not be involved in the household, where I see far too many adults hanging around. To the best of my knowledge, social services is involved.
While I’ve talked of the difficulty with the mother, I can never forget that this is a family of school-age kids, with two girls and two boys. I have a connection with one of the girls through my daughter, and we go to pick her up for activities. I don’t know the boys at all, except for the way they hover around me like eager puppies wanting a treat whenever I come by. They seem to crave even just a few minutes of conversation. I try not to come empty-handed, bringing a few books, art supplies, or clothes that “maybe they could use.”
But the more I come, the more they want from me and I’m not sure what more I can give. Over the summer we planned to keep up with my daughter’s classmate, because we have a relationship already and can build on it. Since they don’t have a phone, we have a weekly playdate to go swimming or to a movie or come over and play video games, and always to have dinner with us. Another mom is doing the same with the younger daughter. But what to do with the boys?
I literally don’t have room for all of them in my car, for one. I don’t know them, and I don’t do boys, so I’m at a loss for what I would do with them. The mother’s manipulative and dishonest nature scares me a bit in taking any responsibility for them, because I don’t put it above her to lie in hopes of getting something out of me where my developed trust with the older daughter precludes that. And frankly, I feel emotionally and financially stretched enough.
I would love to get more help from my local community, and yet getting others involves puts that person at the same risk I went through to realize the limitations of the help that can be given. There’s also the issue of privacy in a relatively small community.
I’m mostly writing here as a catharsis, but would be happy for any advice, suggestions, words of wisdom that can be offered. What do you do when the needs are so great that you are weighed down by them?