Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?

But now I know that I’m the only savior of my sins
And my cheeks are stained
With all the same old bullshit, misery, and pain
And I know I’m to blame, oh and it’s a lowdown dirty shame
Cause John Coltrane is on my radio again.
Nathan Davis, John Coltrane

Several years ago, while participating in an online forum devoted to sustainability and small-time farming, I made a big mistake.

Marsha was a member of the forum. I’d probably been reading her posts and thus, was “acquainted” with her for maybe two years. A single mother with a young son, she was down on her luck. This wasn’t an unusual story during that period right after the Crash of 2008. Lots of people had lost their jobs, their homes, their futures, and Marsha was among them.

She was living in a relative’s RV in a campground in a western state. Her son was allegedly diagnosed with ADD and all manner of other things and as a result, school attendance for him was spotty. She was forever having to go pick him up at school because they would call and tell her he was out of control. It just sounded like she and the child were on the edge, their living conditions were iffy and she needed a hand to help her get on her feet.

As it happened, a member of the group, Paula, who lived in the extreme northeast part of the country had a job for Marsha, doing the sort of thing that was near and dear to all our hearts. Paula ran a large vegetable gardening business, growing fresh veggies for local restaurants that did a booming business during the tourist season. She was in need of a seasonal worker. She also had a huge house and her grown children had moved out, leaving a nice empty large bedroom, which she offered to Marsha and her son, Ben. Marsha jumped at the opportunity.


Of course, this meant that Marsha had to get from out west to the northeast. Her van needed work. She got that done. But that left her with little funding for the trip. No matter, a bunch of us volunteered to put her up for the night at stops along the way. My house was convenient for that, as were another member in Arkansas and another one in Virginia.


And so the Great Road Trip began. Marsha had just enough money for gas along the way and a few meals. Everything was great and we were all following her trek with great anticipation.

She arrived here and in the first ten minutes, I realized why Marsha had problems. Marsha actually didn’t have problems. Marsha was a problem. And her son, Ben, was a bigger one.

Marsha simply didn’t have a clue about life. Everything was everyone else’s fault, Marsha was the only subject that interested Marsha, and there was nothing Marsha didn’t know about already. Ben was without doubt the worst child I’d ever been in contact with in my life. He didn’t have ADD. He was full blown mentally ill.

We had a horrible overnight visit. Ben stayed up (he was about 8) screaming at his mother, using language that even made me horrified (and I swear) until after 3 am. He pretty much refused to eat, which didn’t bother me, but drove his mother nuts as she tried to coax him. Dave and I are both pretty laid back about house guests. People who visit us are used to us treating them like they live here. But this pair were beyond anything we’d ever seen.

After Marsha had conned Dave out of some gas money, she finally left mid morning. I immediately got on the phone and called the next people up the line and told them that if they were very smart, they would come up with a family emergency and spring for a motel room for Marsha and Ben with their apologies. They did just that after I described what happened.

And poor, poor Paula. Paula had Marsha for about a month before finally kicking her out. At last sight, Marsha had gone to Oregon. I put her phone number in my cell phone for no other reason than so I wouldn’t answer her calls.

The world of online scams and online “friendships” and online charity. Giver, beware.

So that leads me to this:


This is purported to be an email or message written by a woman named DJ. The part blacked out was not written by her, but was an addendum by the person posting this publicly and would be confusing for the reader, so I got rid of it. What you can see is what she supposedly wrote.

We cannot be certain that this is what she wrote, though, and the reason we can’t is that DJ is now dead. This complaint was written in August 2013, from what I understand, and she died several months later, from either an accidental or purposeful drug overdose. [UPDATE:  DJ’s death was accidental.]  She had undergone back surgery.

The purpose for posting this publicly was to criticize the person who supposedly “abandoned” DJ— a friend of mine, Beth.

I very purposely didn’t contact Beth and ask her about this incident because I didn’t want anything she might say to sway what I’m going to say about it here. I’ll talk with her later about it, or maybe I won’t. [Note: I did. Update below.] I have no personal knowledge about the incident. I remember DJ having surgery. I remember her complaining repeatedly about living alone and having no help in the wake of debilitating surgery. I remember DJ (who I barely had ever talked with online) as a nice person. And I remember that it was shocking when she died.

Keep in mind, though, that online perceptions aren’t always real. I thought Marsha was a really nice person too until she stayed at my house overnight.

As I mentioned, this was posted entirely to discredit and defame Beth. No other reason. Her accuser, DJ, cannot confront her, since she is dead. The people who posted it aren’t DJ’s friends. They are simply Beth’s enemies.

Bad, bad Beth. Beth left DJ either at the hospital or the airport (I can’t figure out which) and she is bad, bad, bad. And DJ is very upset.


That’s because, somehow, Beth owes DJ something.

As far as I know, Beth didn’t know DJ any more than I did. She apparently just volunteered to help DJ to some unknown extent. I don’t know if DJ went to Beth’s house to recuperate, and if so, had she been there two days or two weeks, or if Beth gave DJ a ride to the airport from the hospital (would she be going straight to an airport from a hospital after major back surgery?) or what. Nobody says. Nobody even asks.

Instead, knowing no more than you do now, they just begin to bash Beth. [UPDATE about this below.]


Which leads directly to the question I want to ask.

What do you owe somebody else? Anything at all? And if you choose to help them, at what point can you extricate yourself and remain moral?

About a year ago, Dave fell off his tractor while pulling some fence posts. It was a common type of tractor accident and totally preventable. He narrowly escaped being killed. He landed on his upper back and neck and after a trip to the emergency room, where he was found to be all in one piece, he was sent home. He promptly went to bed and pretty much stayed there for the next three or four weeks. During that time, I had to do all the chores around here. That’s not a small task for an old woman.


Our next door neighbor (we have the best neighbors in the world) came over the next evening when I was at the barn doing the evening milking and asked if he could help. I asked him if he’d get several bales of hay from the loft, since I can’t get up there. He threw down about 8 or 10 bales. That was all I needed for several days.

Now, did I have a right to expect him to check on me every single milking, morning and night for the next three weeks? Of course I didn’t. I was simply grateful that he had done what he did. He didn’t have to do anything at all. He could have just stayed home and watched television while I milked.

If I hadn’t been able to manage, I had a couple of choices. One choice would have been to hire somebody to help me. Hire. Pay them. Money. It’s amazing how willing people are to help you out when you pay them, and pay them well. It makes everyone happy. They’re happy and feel good about doing the job. You’re happy because the job got done and you aren’t in debt to anyone. Win-win.

But say you’re just broke and can’t pay for the help. Then you have to pretty much beg. Note the word. Beg. You have to ask somebody to help you. They don’t owe you the help. They aren’t required to do anything at all.

In all likelihood, they are going to be as willing to help you out as they have perceived you to be willing to do stuff for them in the past, or as willing as they’ve seen you be to others.


Dave and I have moved a good many times. Once, we were loading up the truck, a friend came over to help us. He stayed for quite a while, and Dave asked him what we could do to repay him. The friend made a request – that we pay it forward.

We were unlikely to ever be able to return the favor directly as we were moving out of his area, but we paid it forward by helping others load their trucks in turn.

However, we didn’t bitch and moan when we moved here several years ago, and didn’t know anyone at all in the area, and hence, had to unload our truck ourselves.  It just took longer.  We paced ourselves and did the job. Had it been impossible for us to move something, we would have sought some hired assistance.

And I also want to address the last paragraph of DJ’s little whine.  She seems to be under the delusion (and it is delusional) that invoking “God” somehow changes the equation.  It doesn’t. Believing in an imaginary friend doesn’t entitle you to make demands on others who have no responsibility for you.

UPDATE: Since I wrote the above (which I hadn’t finished and didn’t publish), I have found out more about the DJ/Beth story.  You can read the whole sorry saga here, or just let me tell you the summary: Beth not only helped DJ, she paid for another woman to go to DJ’s residence and be with her for several days. DJ couldn’t afford to pay for help (what did I say about that requiring begging?) so Beth and April helped her for “a few days.”

That doesn’t seem to have been enough for DJ, though, since ten days later, she began whining.  No good deed goes unpunished.

And one year later, Beth is being not only eviscerated for “abandoning” DJ, but is also accused of having caused DJ to “commit suicide.”  The cause of DJ’s death has never been made public by her next of kin, but no matter. [Update: It was an accident.] The blogger in question just fires away. [In the link I provided to Linda Fossen’s godawful blog, “Susan” is DJ.  She doesn’t shy away from using Beth’s whole name, though.)

There is one thing for certain here, though.  If any of the people who have been actively engaged in Beth-bashing ever need help, they need to look elsewhere. I wouldn’t bring them water in a bucket if they were dying of thirst.


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