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At some point you need to love from a distance.

As much as I love the people in my life, I am not responsible for their actions and how they choose to take care of business. This is something that has taken a long time for me to grasp as I’ve always tried my best to lend a helping hand when and where possible. Even though I still do, it comes with restrictions. Now I have a family of my own that requires my focus.

People are creatures of habit and unfortunately have no problem doing the wrong thing time and time again, even if it yields the same outcome. This perfectly describes a family member of mine who’s not only much older than me, but has not made any progress for herself in the last 20 years.

She first fell on hard times during my high school years and started taking odd jobs to make ends meet. Rather than continue to do what was necessary for her family, there were times when she had no problems throwing her hands up in defeat. Yes life gets hard, but quitting isn’t an option, especially when you have children that depend on you.

I’ll never forget the summer before my freshman year of college. I worked two jobs and saved up $2,500 to help finance my first year of school. I had other scholarships and grants, but I wanted to relieve some of the money burden off my parents. Weeks before I leave I get a phone call from this family member who told me she was in the process of being evicted and needed help. Even though she knew my circumstances, she had no problem asking for money. I felt guilty at the thought of not helping someone and seeing them on the street. As you guessed, I gave her most of the money I saved that I still have yet to see returned.

This wouldn’t be the first or last time she lost her home and made poor financial decisions.

Several years later, the same family member found herself in court for failure to pay bills. Instead of getting on a payment plan or working a part-time job to increase her income (some folks think they’re too good for one), she checked out of reality and went missing for a few weeks. Guess who’s house she went to when she decided to take responsibility for her actions? Mine. There would be another incident three years later where she would leave for a period of time before coming back.

The sad part about this story is the family member is very close to turning 60 years old. With only a few years before hitting her official retirement age, she has no savings, 401k, or much of anything for that matter to show for her life. While I commend her for working at the same job for five years, she recently grew tired of it and decided to quit. Luckily she now has a new job, but I can’t help but think this wasn’t the best decision for her. She previously worked for this company and quit many years ago.

I hate thinking of the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but it’s true in this situation. I’ve had conversations with this loved one time and time again. It becomes hard after many years to try and help someone, especially when they develop a chip on their shoulder and think you don’t go through hardships because you didn’t make the same choices.

I have been going back and forth whether or not I should try to see if she has a game plan, but am not sure if it’s worth it at this point. At the end of the day, her actions are her own. Most of us grow tired when the government decides to bailout companies who should’ve known better, so why should I be different?

Would you speak up or butt out?

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