It is the season of giving, where the motivation to purchase presents and make plans for gatherings occupies everyone’s minds. The need to give and help though, for many of us, is not limited to special occasions such as Christmas or birthdays. For many, having to give, especially financially, is a matter of necessity.
For those with their families and love ones overseas, the call for help has no schedule and can come unexpected. This year has been one of those times when it happened many times in a row to several of my relatives in the Philippines.
My paternal grandmother had numerous medical issues, with her eyesight, heart, and liver. A few months ago, she was unexpectedly hospitalized, and the bill is sizeable, reaching up to $10,000 even after the Seniors’ Discount and one of the doctors waiving their professional fees. I cringed when they sent me a photo of the bill, and I was able to provide a limited amount. And unfortunately, the medical procedure did not resolve the matter and she passed away. Now there was also a need to pay for funeral expenses, and I was able to send a little bit after my paycheque for the end of the month arrived.
Around the same time, a cousin of mine reached out to me, asking to borrow anywhere between $25,000 – $50,000. The reason has something to do with their business that they are trying to get off the ground. A client who was supposed to pay a large invoice ran away from their commitment and cannot be located. The payment is needed to fulfill their bank loan installment. Having that amount lying around is something I don’t have as a young professional just starting out my career. I profusely apologized that I cannot help at all, and wished her the best.
Just a few weeks ago, another relative was in need. My maternal uncle had survived multiple strokes, and unfortunately had one again. It was so sudden, that all I was able to do for a while was to offer what little comfort I can through corresponding on Facebook. After paying for bills midway through the month, I didn’t have any to send at all. And unfortunately, the medical procedure did not resolve the matter and he passed away. Now there is also to need to pay for funeral expenses. This time, I had to wait until this specific payday at the end of the month to give help.
The dilemma of how to respond in each call for help can be agonizing. The pressure to give can lead to exhaustion and guilt. In our culture it is challenging to say words such as ‘no’, ‘not today’, ‘that’s enough’, or ‘I need to know before I decide’. There is an incredible fear of the repercussions on relationships. I hope they know that agreeing to help – or not – is not necessarily a measure of how much I care.
When I was growing up, there were many significant instances where I felt I should have been able to say no, but was unable too. Afraid of the very real consequences or sometimes feeling helpless that saying no will fall in deaf ears. I hope that they understand that there is a difference between saying no, not at all, not right away, and never again.
Setting personal boundaries and self-care are concepts that I have recently learned here, and there is so much about these words that appeal to me, both personally and in a broader context.
Boundaries provide certainly. I am starting to remind myself that it’s okay to feel sorry for not being able to give money sometimes, but not overly burdened with guilt for an excessive amount of time. We deserve it for ourselves, and we need to be understanding when others do the same.
The gift of financial help, as well as emotional support towards others is something our love ones certainly deserve. At the same time, the gift of caring for ourselves so we don’t get really hurt in the long term, as well as the gift of kindness towards our very human limitations is something we deserve as well. There are always future instances of crisis and emergencies, and all that anyone they can do is to do their best.