Sense & Sensitivity

DEAR HARRIETTE: A dear friend of mine has recently lost her husband of 24 years to a blood clot that traveled to his heart. She has four children who are currently in school, with one still in grade school.

I reached out to my friend to offer my condolences, and I told her I would help her and her family. When is the best time for me to extend my hand to help? I don’t have money to offer, but I do have time. I can help with homework, around the house -- things like that. -- When to Help

DEAR WHEN TO HELP: Call your friend and ask if you can come by to visit on the weekend. Schedule a time to sit down and talk to her. Check in to see how she is managing and what, if anything, she has put in place to support herself and the children thus far. Go there with clarity about what you can commit to doing to help them out. This is important because you don’t want to offer something that you cannot consistently fulfill. Think about what you can do on a regular basis and what can be one-off duties. Be mindful not to be too pushy. Just let her know that you want to support her in whatever ways you are able.

Remind your friend that there are people who love her and the children, and that she is not alone. You may want to reach out to other friends of hers to see if they are able to pitch in as well. Since she has younger children, I'm sure she will appreciate the support.

If she is reluctant to accept your help at first, do not give up. She is in mourning and trying to figure out her new life. It may take time for her to welcome your generosity.


DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently got accepted to attend New York University to pursue a master’s degree in public policy. Words cannot contain my excitement about potentially attending my dream school -- but there is one problem. I don't have the money to pay for the tuition. The cost is way outside my budget, but I do not want to miss this opportunity. I could attend a graduate school I can afford, but I really want to attend my dream school, and I don’t know what to do. -- Fulfilling a Dream

DEAR FULFILLING A DREAM: This is a hard one. You have been accepted to an excellent school. Contact the admissions office to see if there are any scholarships or financial awards that they offer. It is less likely, though, for a graduate program as opposed to undergraduate. Ask about on-campus jobs or other opportunities that might defray costs. Work with them to see if there is any chance of shaving off some of the tuition. You can also look into securing a loan to help you pay for school.

That said, I also strongly recommend that you not go into tremendous debt. Can you recast your dream toward the actual work you want to do? Think more broadly than where you secure your degree to where you want to work. Set your sights on that. I think you should attend a school you can afford and get to the job without tremendous financial burden.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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