Friday, 1 April 2011

Getting by with a little help from my friends

I have always known a crisis reveals who your friends are but nothing could have prepared me for the kindness I have been shown over the past few years.  So many people from all different walks of life have helped and continue to help in spite of us having no financial way of repaying them. These are just some of the things which have touched my heart and helped to keep me whole.
  • Within days of finding out we were to be homeless five people offered us somewhere to live. These offers came completely unsolicited through friends of friends and each and every one of them provided us with a comforting solution when we had nothing.
  • The auctioneer I instructed to price and sell our possessions was adamant I should think carefully before disposing of everything. He insisted I was the kind of person who would bounce back. Because I shared with him an idea I had had, he tracked down the owner of a house he knew of which would both house our furniture and be large enough to accommodate a bed and breakfast business. This act of selfless kindness enabled us to move into a place we could  immediately call home, surrounded by our own furniture and minimised my children's sense of loss at the prospect of loosing all things familiar. In doing this my auctioneer forfeit all his commission as I was no longer faced with having to sell everything I owned but his actions gave me the opportunity to generate an income which      supported us while my husband was without work and allowed us to take a huge initial step towards re-establishing ourselves. 
  • Our landlord's agreed to substantially reduce our rent and allow us to have lodgers in their property as a way of making it affordable for us to stay. They also agreed to take personal references from local people who had known us for years instead of the usual bank and credit references which all the agencies I had spoken to insisted upon. They took us on in the full knowledge of our dire financial circumstances and have always treated us more like family than tenants.
  • The headmistress of my children's school called me into her office to ask me to accept her help and support both personally and professionally through our difficult times. She hugged me and said I should take pride in the knowledge my children were happy and faring well in spite of our financial difficulties. Her kind words helped me focus on the fact our traumas had not impacted badly on the children and helped me be a little less hard on myself.
  • The Bursar of my son's school rang and wrote on more than one occasion kindly offering the schools financial support in providing my son's future education. He repeatedly told me I should feel no shame in accepting the help they were happy to be able to provide in our time of crisis and in so doing helped me feel better about accepting their offer.
  • The account manager at Mortgage Express who dealt with me in a compassionate and sympathetic way throughout and in so doing helped us reach an acceptable outcome which saved my daughter’s home.
  • The HSBC executive who lived up to their claim of being the "listening bank". He read my letters, collected the evidence of our financial demise and not only wrote off the sums we owed directly to HSBC but also arranged the write off of all the loans HSBC managed totalling £90,000. He wished us well for the future and said he hoped his actions would play a small part in our recovery.
  • The kind words from Barclays and Barclaycard were humane and restorative in nature when they informed me they did not plan to pursue our debts. They gave me evidence early on not all banks wanted to punish and bully us for not being able to repay them.
  • Our friends in Spain brought all our furniture back to us in England free of charge so we could set ourselves up for taking in lodgers without incurring any costs. They found us a buyer for our apartment and liaised with all parties to make the purchase possible. It spread my work and worry load at a time when it would have not been possible to retain any control at arm’s length. They enabled us to make the best of a bad lot and have continue to be kind and supportive in spite of the distance between us.
  • Very real compassion came from the two estate agents who were jointly instructed to provide a forced sale buyer within a matter of days. They both treated me with genuine kindness throughout and have willingly helped me wherever they could. It made a very undignified exit from our dream home as bearable as it could be.
  • Our accountant to whom we owed a considerable sum wrote off our debt to him saying he wanted to do it as repayment for the support I had offered him when he first set up in business on his own twenty years previously.  His words helped me retain my self esteem when accepting his generous and charitable solution to the nonpayment of his fees.
  • Our business account manager at Heritable Bank held my hand for two and a half years while he supported and guided me through the sale of our business assets. He endured my naivety at every turn with both patience and empathy while readily offering his much valued expertise whenever I needed it.  I shall miss his clear thinking, quick wit and kind words when this is all over.
  • My caseworker at the CAB secured an increased budget so he could write endless letters on my behalf for more than a year and a half to all our creditors. It was at a time when I was too overwrought to do it myself and his actions helped me keep my sanity by gaining respite from the bombardment, accusations and bully boy tactics of the banks.
  • A school friend that I have known for 42 years emailed me jokes regularly because she didn't want me to be without the opportunity to laugh. This became my ready remedy when I felt panic ridden and it helped me to refocus when things were getting to me.
  • A neighbour rang out of the blue to invite me out to lunch and to a fashion show, all expenses paid, because she thought it would do me good.
  • Retired friends who moved to France invited us to visit on mass (5 of us) for a weeks all expenses paid stay in their lovely home because they wanted to give me some distance from the onslaught.
  • The Inland Revenue and Corporation Tax people who have spent two years helping me unravel my husbands tax anomalies have been kind and sympathetic in their dealings with me. They have put up with my lack of tax knowledge and guided me patiently towards a satisfactory conclusion which I now understand.
  • Family have regularly checked up on us making sure we are OK when picking up the phone to them or visiting was beyond me. They have given us holidays and lunches out, bought many a item for our children and just generally made sure we know we are loved and they are thinking of us.
  • I could list many, many more examples of acts of kindness which have come our way all of which have enabled me to hang on to the belief that one day there would be life after debt.  However, there are two friends who deserve a special mention because they made the decision to step up to the mark, full time, when I needed them most. The time they spent with me and the wisdom they shared helped me save my family life, my marriage and my sanity not to mention help me deal with our creditors. Both of them originally came into my life on a commercial basis and have, since my "Grand Opening" in October 2008, freely spent hours of their time and energy listening (often daily) encouraging  and supporting me when the shock of my discoveries would not allow me to retain a grasp of our situation on my own. The first lady I have known for 25 years  and the second I have known for little more than 25 months but without these two friends I know I would have completely lost the plot, perhaps for good. Thank you JS and CJ. How can I ever repay you?
Now, on good days, I realise I was wrong to think I would never recover from the shame I felt when I discovered I had become a debtor. Instead I can see I actually have much to be thankful for and many people not only wish us well but have been happy to do something to help us in our hour of need. I also believe it is quite possible I would have remained completely unaware of the kindly abundance that flows freely from our fellowmen but for the crisis I and my family have lived through over the past few years. Rather surprisingly, I find I actually feel richer now than I have ever felt at any other time during my 53 years and yet now I have no money and we still owe £1,000,000.

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