Thursday, September 21, 2006


As I get to know more people in my neighborhood, town and larger community, and to know them better, I've been thinking about how long it takes to build up the relationships and trust that hold tribes like these together.

And I've been wondering if people in America would sue each other less if we felt more confident that our neighbors really would want to, and have time to help us out when we hit the rough patches in our lives.

Partly, it's prompted by a friend - also a mother, with children my children's ages - who is going through a particularly tough mental health crisis: she's been hospitalized, intensely medicated, lost a lot of weight, and looks haunted whenever I see her.

I want desperately to help, but I don't know how, even though I've been there, standing on those same brinks, tottering on similarly shaky legs, looking out at other people from a similarly deep, dark hole. Should I call? Drop by? Invite her to a movie? What is intrusive and what is comforting? I don't know her or her family well enough to be able to tell.

Multiply her situation times the millions of other families in such crises every day - financial, medical, legal, whatever - and we are all bouncing around alone, adrift, amok.

I think we just keep trying to build up the trust, a little at a time, trying, trying, trying to make it easier to ask for help, and easier to give it.


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