What Would You Do?

I came home this afternoon and there was a rare message for me on the home answering machine. Rare because nobody ever calls me at my home number, they know I am always at the office or on the cell. I listened to the voice on the tape…it wasn’t familiar, but the name was.

“I’m in a bit of a jam,” said the voice, “I’m up here in Brattleboro, and I need help. Please call me.” I remembered this guy from prep school, thirty years ago we lived in the same dorm at Northfield Mount Hermon. Here he was on my phone, asking, I assumed, for money. I called the number and it was a cheap motel. “I”m so glad you called,” he said. Then he went on to details. “I’m expecting this check, I’m having problems with the government, getting this electronic payment to come through….I just need some money to hold me over. I should have the money in ten days.”

I asked him whether he had credit cards or checks. “I can’t find them,” he answered meekly. I asked whether he’d called his family–the first line of defense when you’re down on your luck. “It’s a long story, but they’re not into helping me, I’ve burned bridges,” he answered.

I didn’t feel good about his reasons, and didn’t offer to come up and rescue him. If he was once a close friend, maybe. But he wasn’t. I barely knew him…and the whole thing smelled to me like it was a case of a drug problem or another tangled mess best left alone. What would you do?