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A way out of the subprime funk.

Just because you panic over each bill doesn't mean you can't be a good Samaritan.

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I am among the financially "subprime." While my condition has been voted word of the year for 2007 by linguists of the American Dialect Society, I would feel better had my word this year been "green" or even "waterboarding." Those were runners up.

Many people view their current economic situation as akin to being waterboarded on a regular basis. Strapped to the front door of your house, and with each new wave of bills you plunge backwards, held under until you are certain your dreams will burst. You come up gasping, panicked, pleading, and praying.

Yet I've discovered that, instead of drowning alone, or dragging others under, people are willing to pool resources and help one another float through the flood.

Nobody strapped us to our mortgage, but because our credit was poor, the rate was higher. Then our local taxes went up, so fast and high during reassessments in boom time that our payments nearly doubled in three years, while incomes have remained the same.

With the housing market in the dumps, we are not in a position to sell and move to a cheaper spot, though that is the goal. So we work more jobs and cut expenses to protect our investment and dream. My four sons have become mac and cheese and PB&J junkies.

This nation is in a depression right now, though not in the traditional fiscal sense. "Subprime" has come to refer to much more than the terms of a person's mortgage; it's how we feel about our prospects.

As preholiday debts mounted, I said a little prayer for relief and peace of mind. Those hopes were fulfilled when I found myself assisting those in much more dire situations than mine.

First came a call from a friend who was about to be evicted. It twisted my gut to listen to her tale of declaring bankruptcy and moving her family's belongings to a self-storage unit in the knowledge that they would spend the new year in a shelter.


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