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Squirreling Money Away
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When I was in college (in California), my mother (in Connecticut) called me late one night to say that she had to have emergency cancer surgery and that they were going to turn her away, send her home, because she did not have the $2000 down payment, could I send her any money. This was back in the day before Medicare (1958).

I was at Stanford University at the time, a school for bright kids with parents of deep pockets (except for those of us who worked our way through). I went to every friend in the dorm, borrowing money, until I had enough to send her. I remember going to the police station in the dead of night and asking them how I could send it to her immediately.

They were very nice, very responsive. (What must they have thought of a scared, frantic, 16-year-old appearing at the desk with a fistful of cash?) An officer took me to an all-night Western Union place and I wired the money to her. Then he took me back to the dorm and sweet-talked the housemother out of giving me detention for being out so late.

Ever since that memorable experience, I've had a secret savings fund. Not the savings that I have associated with my checking account, with monies moving back and forth, but a separate, static fund for emergencies only.

It started out with $200 in a time when that amount was serious money, and has gradually expanded to $2,000 today, a bit more each year, over the years. I have loaned it out to friends in dire need or sudden shortages, and I have had it repaid every time. Maybe not very promptly, but eventually.

I tell people that they can consider it a gift or a loan, pay me back if you can and if you can't, that's OK too. I've also said if you don't pay me back, then pass it on when you, in your turn, meet someone in need.

Its purpose is that I can help somebody who is standing in desperate or urgent need and has no one else to turn to. I never again want to be caught up in the situation where someone calls me in the middle of the night for help and I can't respond because I have no resources.

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