Published October 1, 2004
Ask Rabbi Dan
by Rabbi Dan S. Wiko PhD
  Issue: 5.09
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Olivia from London, England asked:

"I am sorry if this is not your regular type of problem. It is just very important to me. I am 20 years old and my best friend, who is 26, lives in America. We are very very close and talk every day on the phone. Recently, she has been getting a bit low and she has just been crying on the phone just now. Her problem is that she is in debt, serious debt and she is having trouble finding a job since leaving her last job. Her father died when she was young so she doesn't have him for financial or emotional support. She has to look after her mother a lot. She needs at least $1600 to get herself back on track. I know she desperately needs a break from New York since there is a lot she needs to get away from at the moment. I so want her to come to England and wind down and I have told her that I will pay for half her ticket which she was very touched about. The problem is that she now is having trouble even paying for half a ticket. I come from a well-off family and I do have enough money to cover her debts. But this would be a big cut in my savings. My father is the one who is rich but I wouldn't want him to pay for my friend who he doesn't even know. It wouldn't be fair on him. I just want to help out my friend. I need to know whether or not I should send her a cheque to help her out. I know my father would not be happy with me for spending so much money on my friend. I always respect and trust that my parents know best and if they think I am making a ridiculous decision, I will believe them and I won't send the money. But I just want her to be happy. I want her to come over and take a break. I just don't know what to do for the best. This may sound like a trivial problem to you. But I can't discuss it with anyone I know because they will either tell me I am being ridiculous or make out that I am such an angel when all I want is an unbiased opinion on whether I will do the right thing by sending my friend a lot of money. Please answer as soon as you can. I really need to know what to do. To me it is very important. Thank you so much for your time and your help."

Dear Olivia,

Your dilemma is not unique. Many caring friends have been confronted with similar situations. Helping someone by bailing them out is, actually, hindering them. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone faces hardships in life. That is just how it is and, from it, we learn who and what we are and what kind of stuff we are made of.

I have a great deal of empathy for your friend and her situation but it is not your responsibility to assume her responsibilities and obligations. Ideally, she should not have spent money that she didn't have but we all tend to fall into that trap. If she needs an income, any type of work is acceptable. There are stock brokers who have lost everything in the market driving taxis to survive. Survival is paramount and how you go about surviving is optional. As long as it is done honestly!

I don't see much wrong with your sharing in the expense of her visiting you and helping her cope emotionally but paying her debt is going a bit too far. Help her take her break from New York and, maybe, see if she can work while she is in London. I don't know what the laws are in England so you might want to look into that before she comes. Given that your father is wealthy, maybe he can offer her some work while she is visiting.

It seems that you are a person with a heart. That is a blessing to both your friend and yourself but it is, also, important that you use your head in making decisions.

I hope that I've helped.

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