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Once she realizes just how dire her financial straits are, Suze says Sylvia has only one option—to turn to family and friends. "You have to ask for help," Suze says. "You actually have to yell it from the mountaintop, 'Help me, because I can't help myself right now.'"

To enlist the help Sylvia needs, Suze gathers a group of loved ones and explains the extent of Sylvia's money problems. Sylvia tells her family she needs someone to babysit her children while she goes on job interviews, as well as some financial assistance until she's back on her feet.

Immediately, Sylvia's sister-in-law Linda and her two nieces, Haley and Heather, offer to watch the kids. "I'm available to help her while she goes out and looks for a job, and I'm also available to help her at least three days out of the week to watch the kids when they get out of school," Linda says. Her aunt Ann Marie offers to pitch in some home-cooked meals, and her sister Cindy and mother, Laura, say they will help in any way they can. "I love you, and you are so strong, much more than you know," Cindy says. "I will help you with anything I know. Whether it's teaching you how to use a computer, you know I'm always there for you."

As for taking care of bills, Suze discourages the family from making loans to Sylvia. "Loans destroy families and friendships because every time you see her, you'll think, 'When is she going to pay me back?'" Suze says. Instead of making a loan, Sylvia's brother-in-law Andy says he will commit to giving her $1,000 per month.

Family members pledge to help her find a new apartment, and her uncle Joe promises to co-sign. Because she won't be able to afford movers, everyone offers to help move her belongings into her new home. "Now I feel like I have wings, like everybody's supporting me," Sylvia says.

Suze says it is important to note that the family members who offered to help Sylvia financially actually could afford to do so. "It's a commitment that they enjoy making that doesn't burden them," Suze says. "Her gift back to all of them is this, that once she is on her feet—and she will be on her feet again, and she will be making money again—when she is in that situation and she sees somebody else in need, she is not going to pay [her family] back. She needs to do that for somebody else who is in her situation when that comes to be."
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FROM: Suicide, Lies, Debt: A Suburban Nightmare
Published on March 14, 2008

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