(Editor's note: Unlike past recessions, the current downturn has taken a significant toll on sectors of the economy virtually unscathed by earlier economic crises. This is the second in a series on one family's struggle.)
SKOKIE, Ill. (UPI) -- We fell into depression, both financially and emotionally, once our home equity line vanished, but our friends and relatives have been pulling us through.
Chained to the computer on our endless job searches and spending as little money as possible, we've been flooded with information sent by loved ones on jobs, networking, deals, loans and refinancing. One family has so internalized our situation it seems they've made a full-time job of seeking relief for us.
We receive dinner invitations and suspiciously freshly cooked-appearing "leftovers." Musician friends offer us free tickets. One couple coaxes us out as their guests at restaurants and theaters, sweetly fibbing about non-existent upcoming expiration dates on coupons. Another presses supermarket gift cards on us, insisting we have done them many favors. We don't want to hurt feelings -- we would, of course, do the same for any of them -- but it's hard to accept charity.
Some are heartrendingly crafty about not taking no for an answer. Our youngest's college roommates presented her with a non-refundable round-trip ticket home one weekend, sensing she longed to be with us. One couple handed us a beautiful card with a personal, loving message and a cashier's check for a huge sum they can't afford. Tearing up a cashier's check means tearing up cash. We cashed it, implored them to take it back, but they became hurt and angry, so we finally relented. We're determined to get even.
Our eldest's student teaching mentor, whom I've never met, handed her a long handwritten letter for me, mother to mother. Enclosed was a check in an amount too large for hers and her husband's teachers' salaries. Writing through tears, I somehow convinced her to accept, reluctantly, the return of the money. I cherish, though, the more meaningful gift: Her letter expressed a fervent desire to aid a fellow mother and teacher who had raised such an exceptional young woman and promising new teacher.
My dear mother-in-law, not a wealthy woman, will lend what we need monthly to rescue us from foreclosure. She gives open-heartedly; heavy-heartedly, we accept. This can't go on for very long, though.
My husband's California cousin, whom we rarely see, sends money wrapped in love. His New York relatives phone frequently.
We're trying to keep the house until the market recovers, then sell it for enough to rent or buy a tiny apartment. If forced to sell now, we would end up literally with much less than nothing. Moot point, anyway: The only houses selling these days are foreclosures.
My husband will soon begin a short-term contractor's position. The work sounds interesting, but the salary is insufficient to support us. If only I could get a job, we'd be OK, but I despair of ever having the opportunity to work again. Let's see how his job goes for him.