The Power of Teaspoons

A lot of virtual ink has been spilled (and often rightfully so) about the bad bits of the blogosphere—the bickering, the stupidity, the ubiquitous trolling and hacking and attacking and harassment. But there's so much good stuff about the blogosphere, too—to much to list, really, but one of its best bits is the ability of bloggers and blog readers to pull together to help someone out.

This is one of those stories.
"This is our Christmas story," said Ebony Sampson. "It's going to be told for generations and generations to come."

Sampson, who lives in Aberdeen, Maryland, with her husband, Daniel, and their two young children, has overcome more hardship than one person should ever have to face. When she was in the 10th grade, she lost her entire family in a horrific car accident. Raised by a grandmother in New York, Ebony eventually used some life-insurance money from her parents' death to buy the home in Aberdeen, near where she grew up.

But in June, Daniel got sick.
He had contracted a terrible case of salmonella from a bad tomato, and, because he'd just stated a new job, he hadn't accrued enough sick time to miss the work he needed without losing his position. He lost his job, and the proverbial snowball started rolling: Utilities got shut off, their one working vehicle was repossessed, and eventually their house was scheduled to be foreclosed unless they could come up with $10,000 to bring the mortgage up to date.

One of Ebony's friends, Jaki Grier, posted about their plight on her blog, along with a donation link.
At the most, Jaki thought she could raise enough money to help the Sampsons pay a security deposit on an apartment after their home was auctioned.

But donations started pouring in. Within 24 hours, Grier's blog had raised $1,000, far exceeding her expectations. People started linking to Grier's blog from sites across the Internet and around the country.

Attorneys posted legal advice. Others in similar situations offered sympathy. One woman sent a donation with a note that said she had just lost her own home but wanted to help anyway. Another woman wrote that she didn't have a car but would walk to her grocery store with a jar of change and donate it to the cause.

Yet another e-mail came from a woman who was unemployed, with no job prospects. She donated a dollar.

With every donation, the total raised ticked higher and higher on Grier's blog.

"Everybody wants to give to a charity, but so many times when you give to a charity you don't really see where your money goes," Grier said. "At least with this, you saw the little [donations] ticker go. I think that made people excited."

Four days after Grier's blog post, she had raised $3,400 -- enough to repair the Sampsons' car. That night, Grier went to bed ecstatic. The next morning she checked her PayPal account and was stunned to find the balance had ballooned to $10,900.

In the time it took Grier to take the donation link down from her blog, the balance had reached $11,032. In just five days, she had raised enough money to save her friend's home. A Baltimore TV station, WBAL, caught wind of the story and put it on the air. Someone contacted Daniel Sampson and offered him a job interview.

"It's been overwhelming," Daniel Sampson said. "For me, out of all the donations [we] received, it was a little kid [who] came knocking on the door early Saturday morning ... with a five-dollar bill in his hand. He just came up to the door and said, 'Here you go, mister.' Then he just walked away. I was, like, speechless. He couldn't have been more than 8 years old."

..."It doesn't seem real to me, and so I just thank everyone out there that cares," Ebony Sampson said. "There really was no hope for us. Then, out of nowhere, just the kindness of strangers, just people that came and, you know, provided for us. Jaki was our beacon of light that led them to us."
(Some of those strangers are among us. I linked to Ginmar's post linking to Jaki's post around Thanksgiving. Teaspoons.)

I wish the Sampsons had never had to be in that position in the first place: I wish Daniel hadn't gotten sick, I wish we had workers' rights laws that protected him when he did, I wish they hadn't had to go through the stress and worry and struggle of financial catastrophe.

I wish they hadn't had to experience a moment of being scared before they were given the help they needed, that all of us deserve—because I'm keenly aware that there is real suffering with being that close to going over the cliff, even as being so close to the precipice is what made their story compelling and elicits such huge waves of joyful relief now that they are on solid ground again.

I wish we were all a little quicker to help.

Of course, sometimes it's hard to ask until we're on the edge, and hard to really hear others' need, until the echo is reverberating in the canyon below. Funny creatures that way, we humans.

Still: Blub.

It never ceases to be thrilling and inspiring to see people rise to the occasion for each other, and, most importantly, I am more happy for the Sampsons than I can possibly say.

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