How to anonymously and non-creepily help a neighbor?
January 25, 2013 1:47 PM   Subscribe

I don't know my neighbor, but I do know she's going through a rough time. Can I anonymously help her without freaking her out?

I live in a small complex of 6 apartments. Some of my neighbors I know well, but there is one woman I only know enough to say hello to. I found out her name from an email my landlord sent last year, and out of curiosity I googled her (along with all the other neighbors...yes I admit to being a bit Internet stalker-y). Turns out she keeps a blog and her entries are very sad. She is often depressed, lonely, underemployed and barely able to pay her rent and buy food. And of course I can't stop reading the blog now.

I am in a financial position to help her, and would like to, if there is some non-creepy way that I could. However, I think just leaving some $ in an envelope with her name on it at her door would seriously freak her (and anyone!) out. Is there some subtle, anonymous way I could help her? Like she just happens to come across some money or something? Or is this just a bad idea? Banjo redux?

A bit more info:
Why help anonymously? I know I could try to get to know her and then try to help, but she is pretty withdrawn and not friendly at all when I've tried. I don't think she's a mean person, though, just depressed, as she's often writing about being alone, not having close friends, and rarely leaving her apartment. I also don't want her to know I've been reading her blog or be identifiable here because, well, creepy!
Also: I have no ulterior motives here (romantic interest, etc.) other than a desire to feel good about helping her. If it matters, I am female and about 10 years younger than her.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (49 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
One thing you could do is send her a grocery store gift card in the mail. Maybe put it in a cheerful card. Something like, "Hang in there!"
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:50 PM on January 25, 2013 [6 favorites]

You could "accidentally" cook too much of something, and share it with her... and if she seems at all receptive you could do that every week.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:53 PM on January 25, 2013 [35 favorites]

Does she have a tip jar on her blog?Maybe you could comment on the blog (or contact her via any contact info she gives) and strongly suggest she add one. Be cautious though about identifying yourself via your ip address -- maybe do it from a public library or something.

You're nice.
posted by Infinity_8 at 1:53 PM on January 25, 2013 [16 favorites]

Very nice of you to want to help.
Is there a way you can comment on her blog anonymously and ask her for a PO box or mailing address as a reader who sympathizes and wants to help?
Then you can send her a grocery card or gas card or whatever.
posted by rmless at 1:53 PM on January 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

How much digging did it take to get from her name to the blog? If it's not deeply anonymous, you could mail a cashier's check or postal money order mentioning you had read of her struggles on the blog.
posted by Bruce H. at 1:58 PM on January 25, 2013 [6 favorites]

Could you pay her rent for a month or two? The landlord could know it was you but you could ask that she be told it was anonymous.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 1:58 PM on January 25, 2013 [18 favorites]

I used The Give Initiative to help out a friend/former coworker anonymously. I sent her money (I think they use Paypal) and the organization emailed her to let her know (without saying who the money was from), then she could get the money. I got a thank-you email from my friend (through the org) so I know she got the money. I would definitely recommend it. Only thing you need (I think) is her email address. Is that on her blog?
posted by trillian at 1:59 PM on January 25, 2013 [24 favorites]

A grocery gift card is very nice. I'd avoid doing something like paying her rent via the landlord; letting the landlord know that she's struggling might hurt her in some way when it comes time to renew.

When I worked with vulnerable populations, I was taught that gifts which give the recipient agency were the most appreciated and beneficial. That is why a grocery card or pharmacy card are better than paying for something for her, like paying her rent.

Kudos to you for wanting to do this anonymously. Getting tangled up with someone whose problems you cannot fathom is one of the reasons so many people are afraid to reach out and help. By doing so anonymously, you are helping her and protecting yourself. Good call.
posted by juniperesque at 2:01 PM on January 25, 2013 [33 favorites]

Drop a gift card to the local grocery store into her mailbox with a note that says "Wishing you all the best" or something else anonymous and un-scary.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:02 PM on January 25, 2013 [6 favorites]

how, I don't know, but I want to Nth the grocery store gift card idea. Particularly if you have one of those stores that sells food and sheets and flowers and yarn and nails and paint and clothes, like Fred Meyer. Those cover an enormous amount of luxuries and necessities both.
posted by KathrynT at 2:12 PM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

i think contacting her through her blog anonymously is the best plan. it's the avenue she's chosen to share personal details in and it doesn't intrude on her real life home like dropping something at her door would.
posted by nadawi at 2:14 PM on January 25, 2013 [11 favorites]

This is so nice of you!

I definitely agree with getting a grocery gift card. If she doesn't have a car make sure it is a grocery store she can easily get to via transit!

You could include a note that reads something like this:

Dear (Lonely Lady),

A mutual acquaintance mentioned to me about your troubles, and I have been reading your blog. I have been fortunate recently and want to pay it forward, so I am sending you some help. Someday you too will be fortunate, and able to pay it forward to someone else in need.

Your faithful reader and grocery angel,

posted by jcdill at 2:29 PM on January 25, 2013 [12 favorites]

Tread lightly. I've known people who were that hard up who were so proud they'd reject aid. Don't involve any third parties (e.g., your landlord). No anonymous gifts. Blogging wasn't a call for help. Invite her for dinner; be neighborly.
posted by Carol Anne at 3:19 PM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

I think if you really want to do this, start slowly and get to know her. For all you know, her blog is fiction or a novel in progress. I think being kind and neighborly and getting to know her face to face is kinder than some anonymous envelope with cash in it, frankly, because anyone can just hand her some stew and a gift card, and skip away. Really caring about someone means getting to actually know them.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:23 PM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Having a hard time paying for groceries and rent is a drag. Loneliness is worse. try to time a few arrivals/ departures to run into her and ask her over for coffee, or to watch something on HBO or whatever. Or ask her to help you with something small, like hanging a picture straight, or some project. In my old neighborhood I had a neighbor who seemed kind of agoraphobic. Took a long time to get to know her, but it was worth it.
posted by theora55 at 3:28 PM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Lots of ideas addressing the "broke" but very few addressing the other stuff. If she's sad and lonely, perhaps you could start making more of an effort to talk to her? There were times where friendly relationships with my neighbors were the primary social interactions in my life. It really did help.
posted by zug at 3:28 PM on January 25, 2013 [6 favorites]

i think a grocery store gift card is a great idea if you really want to help her.

i do have to admit that if one of my neighbors whom i barely know was reading my blog because of someone else giving out my email i'd be pretty unhappy about that. i do think you should stop reading her blog as it isn't one you found on your own anonymously thru a search or recommendation but snooped out. i'm sure she would be quite mortified if she knew one of her neighbors is reading her writings that are obviously personal. yes, it's on the internet for the world to read but the way you found it seems inappropriate to me. jmo.
posted by wildflower at 3:41 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would be incredibly wary of the grocery card suggestion or similar. Food is a massively sensitive thing and telling the world you're having trouble feeding yourself is quite different to having the world come knocking to tell you that.

I'm speaking from the experience of once being offered a similar small gift under similar circumstances, which was kindly meant but felt devastating in how it brought home all my other problems, along with fears of having to repay, shame at how the small amount dwarfed my weekly food budget and the guilt of feeling and wishing I had that sum to better budget for what I needed, not what was offered. This person's situation is obviously different, but people have all sorts of issues in play and having to turn down/not use something you need because you can't afford the risk of taking it is horrible. (For clarity, I'm not talking about pride, I'm talking about fear).

tl;dr - seconding the comments above about agency, and maybe some other friendly gesture/invite if you can or a not-disproportionate contribution to the blog if there's a call/link for that.
posted by comealongpole at 3:53 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I hate to bring this up, but are you absolutely SURE the blog's author IS your neighbor, and not simply another person with the same name? I.e., does the blog make specific references to your town, neighborhood and/or street names, local businesses and events, etc. (Something like 'I was at Starbucks on Main Street' is no good as an identifier, because there are tons of Starbucks and Main Street is one of the most common street-names out there. But 'Walter G's Coffee Shop on Weird-local-name Boulevard' IS good.)
posted by easily confused at 4:01 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like to give gift cards to people in situations like this. I gave a gift card and a baby toy to the young woman who worked drive-thru at my usual McDonald's when she had a baby. As someone said up-thread, go for one of those big box stores that has groceries and everything else if you can; that way, it's not so much "here's money for food" as "here's something for you to use for any purpose." The card I gave my drive-thru gal, she could have used for food, clothes, baby supplies, something for her house, toys, craft supplies, prescription co-pays, housewares, makeup...
posted by not that girl at 4:09 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think you should put more effort into being warm and welcoming and open to friendship with her. She is complaining about being lonely and you live in her building. If I were a lonely single woman and I received anonymous money in the mail in any form, I'd be completely creeped out and shut down even more, taking down the blog and locking my doors & windows.

And of course I can't stop reading the blog now.

If you're not going to get to know her in real life then it actually is creepy that you're so interested in her blog & problems.
posted by headnsouth at 4:13 PM on January 25, 2013 [7 favorites]

Is there a comment section or email address listed on her blog? Ask her anonymously if there's a way you can give her money or otherwise help her out.
posted by wayland at 4:16 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is there some subtle, anonymous way I could help her?

It seems like you have two avenues here. One would be to stay totally anonymous, addressing the financial aspect of her struggle, and never revealing yourself. The other would be to keep reaching out to her on a personal level, addressing the loneliness aspect of her situation. I think it is really, really hard to help someone anonymously without being creepy. Institutions are accustomed to anonymous gifts; individuals are not. Being neighbors is a totally valid reason to reach out to someone, and the sense of community you can help foster can redound to your benefit as well.

You could start small- "I bought too much zucchini at the market, and wound up tripling the recipe- would you like a loaf?" ( I say this because I have wound up with excess zucchini, and did exactly that, tripling the recipe and bringing a loaf to each of my neighbors. So this seems totally plausible to me.) If you take a loaf to everyone, she won't feel singled out, but rather included. Or tell her you made a New Years Resolution to get to know your neighbors better, and you are finally moving on it. Organize a building-wide potluck dinner, or throw a party and invite all your neighbors, or suggest meeting up at the neighborhood watering hole.

If you get to know her better, you might be able to help with her underemployment problem as well, which would be, I think, a much better gift than a gift card to the grocery store. The part that should stay anonymous is that you read her blog. If it helps you, think of it as the internet anonymously sending her help, in the physical form of a caring neighbor, *you.*
posted by ambrosia at 4:27 PM on January 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

I was visiting a woman who had a terminal illness, and was also struggling to pay her rent and other necessities. One day I came to see her, and she reported with incredible gratitude that she had received an anonymous grocery gift card, and how enormously helpful that was. Send it. If someone is broke and hungry, it is more important to give them sustenance than to worry about how they will construe it, and essentially you have worried about how they will construe it by making it anonymous and impersonal.

Reading their blog? I see no harm in that, it is public, and you are kind of heart.
posted by nanook at 4:32 PM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

No offense, because I do think it is really kind of you to want to help her, but I have been this neighbor and I wouldn't have wanted any of this stuff. Really, I mean it. So whatever you do/if you do something, and I think of all the suggestions that the ones about The Give Initiative or suggesting a tip jar on her blog were the most helpful/least creepy regarding her financial situation, I think a better avenue is to try to be a friendly neighbor and perhaps develop a relationship with her which helps her socially, too -- which might open the door to other ways you can help her.

However, please be conscious of respecting her boundaries. She may not want your money or your friendship.
posted by sm1tten at 4:46 PM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Please do not leave a gift card or similar in an envelope with her name. She will go nuts trying to figure out who did it. I'd be scared to death that somebody who knew me due to a blog had also figured out my home address. I would stop blogging and lose an outlet for my stress.

What you can do: as others have said, you can share food you've cooked with her in a neighborly way, or you can donate anonymously online. You can do both, also, but I'd strongly suggest sticking with the latter. If you choose to share with her and engage, be prepared for the distinct possibility that she may be a difficult friend to have. Not that she is in any way at fault for her situation, just that due to loneliness, she may be eager for more friendship than you are comfortable with. She may lack some social skills, maybe just through lack of practice, and pulling back might cause issues in your living situation. Due to proximity, I'd be careful about that possibility. This is why it's sometimes best for the internet to stay on the internet. She chose to share there, rather than as a neighbor, and it's best to respect her choice of context.
posted by decathexis at 5:46 PM on January 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

I've been this neighbour and know many others who have been/are in the same boat and any of us would have wildly appreciated a grocery gift card in a thoughtful bit of stationery.

You might do it after seeing if she's open to friendly gestures in the common spaces (although you make it seem as if she's at least somewhat retiring, which makes that whole thing hard for all concerned), because, heck, yeah, making a friend is a nice thing.

But I would only do that after considering whether or not you can take on the potential psychic weight of a person in her situation. Like, what if you invited her over for dinner and she unloaded all of her stuff on you and then kind of expected this would be y'all's new bonding ritual? Or what if she wanted your help all the time? Or told you all kinds of inappropriately intimate things? Or involved you in drama? Or it turns out she's in this situation because she's got other issues and they aren't the ones she writes about and make it much, much harder to be supportive yet keep your own reality intact? I ask because every single one of these things happened to me or someone I was very close to when they reached out to people in similar situations.

Some of us could handle it, some of us couldn't. I'm not saying don't reach out, but I am saying to be prepared that if you make a face to face gesture, it might require more of an investment or disentanglement than you can commit to right now.

Sending a kind card with a thoughtful gesture that takes some pressure off her many needs is essentially riskless. Same is true for using the donation button on her blog, if she has one. If you do the card, just putting in a line that references the random acts of kindness or paying it forward philosophies is likely to dispel most weird feelings. Your choice whether or not to specify that it's a neighbour, and I'm torn on it - on one hand, "yay, neighbours care"! On the other, "hm, who is watching"?!

Whatever you do, you're a thoughtful gem of a person and I hope all goes well.
posted by batmonkey at 5:55 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just want to add, mail the gift card, don't leave it by her door.
posted by nanook at 5:56 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've also been this neighbour, and quite frankly if someone left me an anonymous grocery gift card there would be three things i'd feel: 1)fear, 2)gratitude and 3)relief of some of my money trouble. If there were a way for you to demonstrate that you weren't a terrifying stalker/ person with ulterior motives, thus alleviating #1, all i'd feel is #2 and #3. If she's too proud to ask for help then an anonymous gift might be the only way she'll get help. It shouldn't be too hard to get her the gift card without it seeming like charity or being creepy; many good suggestions here already on how. If you know when she arrives home you could also just 'drop' it on the floor near her door. It's not charity if it's finders keepers.

I'd be wary of getting super-friendly. It's good to be pleasant and neighbourly and pass the time of day, but befrending someone out of pity is... well, questionable. Especially since you'll probably keep reading her blog and she might start writing about you and it could just get weird fast.
posted by windykites at 6:04 PM on January 25, 2013

your faithful reader and grocery angel

Now that would really bother me; if someone wants to quietly help me out, i'd appreciate it. If someone referred to themself as an angel for doing so, i'd think they were an obnoxious, self-satisfied, condescending so-and-so and i'd not respond well at all. Not saying that the person who suggested that phrase is any of those things, just sharing what my initial reaction would be.
posted by windykites at 6:13 PM on January 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

I would send something via the post office. That seems less creepy and more anonymous than slipping something under the door.
posted by gjc at 6:28 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Huh. I would not be cautious at all about sending an anonymous gift card or something like that. She's blogging about her loneliness. It is a gift to you both that you found her blog. Someone experiencing that kind of loneliness might be wishing for appreciation and not know where to find it, hence the internet. Sending something could be just the thing that she needs to start believing in magic again. You have no idea what's up and I don't think that's a problem. Do what you feel, and do it where you feel that you need to do it.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 6:47 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would send the grocery gift card through the mail without mentioning the blog. Just write in the card that it's from a friend who was thinking of her and wanted to give her a hand.

Then get to know her and become her friend, and that'll make it possible for you to help her in other ways, such as inviting her to dinner at your place. Maybe at some point down the line it'll be possible for you to tell her it was you, but if you aren't sure it's a good idea, keep it to yourself forever. There's honesty and then there's gratuitous confession.
posted by orange swan at 6:49 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

This seems to me like the kind of situation in which you should decide to either sincerely get to know this person and help her out in the spirit of friendship and milk-of-human-kindness, or, you know (and I don't mean this in a mean way at all), mind your own business. You can't help everyone, good as your intentions are.

I want to take in every stray cat I see in my neighborhood, but it's just not plausible.
posted by Dr. Wu at 6:52 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Really, the way you phrase this question, I don't feel like there is a lot of potential for creep. Your idea is poetic and compassionate and careful and needed. You are not her therapist, no, but you can be kind in your own way without engaging her stuff. That is not such a fine line and you sound like you may be able to work this one in a clean and positive way.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 6:52 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

So the creepy and scary part here is knowing her physical address in connection with her online presence. "I know where you live" is an unspoken but potential threat, so anything you send to her home address will be kind of unsettling.

If you have her blog, though, then you might reasonably have access to an email address associated with that, yes? If her email address is public, consider sending her a virtual Visa gift card. She receives it in email, it's plausibly from a reader who stumbled on her blog and not the doing of creepy internet stalkers, and it does not show you know where she lives. And she can use it on any expense she needs, without you having to puzzle out where she shops.

If her email is not public, perhaps you could leave a comment asking for it.
posted by Andrhia at 7:31 PM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

This is a kind impulse. If you want to draw this woman out in real life (which you may not want to do), the thing that I've found is surefire is to ask HER for help, a la hanging a picture, as suggested above, or something along those lines. Even giving food "please God if you don't take this vegetable soup I will DIE of soup" or similar.

Good luck to both of you.
posted by cyndigo at 7:39 PM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

I like this idea, but I would be extremely creeped out if it appeared that a stranger on the internet had figured out the physical address of my home. I vote for something that seems to be based entirely on the blog and that never reveals that you know where she lives, such as the virtual Visa gift card, the online tip jar, or the email-based gift. Since she is "not friendly at all" when you try to chat in person, virtual is probably the avenue that would be most comfortable for her.
posted by ceiba at 7:46 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

If she's really in financial straits she might be on food stamps, in which case just a general gift card (like a Visa gift card) might be more useful.

After my incredibly sweet upstairs neighbors took care of my cats I started getting regular offers of leftovers and invitations to dinner. I think they noticed the state of my apartment and (embarrassingly and correctly) assessed my financial situation. They have never directly indicated as such, of course, but their generosity is always appreciated.
posted by schroedinger at 7:51 PM on January 25, 2013

My take: do what has the best chance of helping her.

Befriending her might be great, but you said she's withdrawn in person, and she reports being lonely and depressed, so there is a good chance that it doesn't really come to anything, and if it doesn't work out, it may limit your ability to help her with food, etc because your cover will be blown. If it does come to something, she may still reject help with food or rent.

On the other hand anonymously giving her a gift card or even cash, helps her meet some fundamental human needs (food). It is also harder to ignore or reject, because if it is unused, it will be wasted. It may even help her outlook, because it signals that she isn't just a lonely person in an indifferent world. Someone thinks she is worthy of some kindness.
posted by Good Brain at 8:04 PM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've been in dire straits and I would have praised heaven and earth if someone paid my rent or gave me money for food. Yes, I would have wondered where it came from but I would have felt gratitude more than anything else. There are few things worse than fearing you might be homeless or being hungry or having to eat cheap, awful food that you know is not nutritious or worse not being able to afford even that.

By the way, the landlord doesn't have to know why you're paying her rent but you should find some way to let her know that it's been paid. Perhaps a "random acts of kindness note", or a "sometimes money is tight, I hope this helps" note. I like this card.

There is but my very quick review didn't find anything suitable for your situation. Still, take a look at some of those...

Target gift card story
101 random acts of kindness see number 90

If you can help her, please do.
posted by shoesietart at 8:05 PM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

You sound like a very loving and emotionally conscious person, which is fabulous. Nothing creepy about curiosity and google-hunting your neighbors or acquaintances, I'm pretty sure we all do that. I would attempt to befriend her. Chat her up in a non-threatening (and very warm) way and try to invite her over for your favorite show, dinner, anything. Sometimes that's what a person really needs, some healthy company. A word of caution though, if you do help her financially be careful not to make a habit of it lest she become dependent on it. It's heartbreaking to see folks struggle, especially if they seem like good people, but she may have problems that stem quite deep, i.e., mental illness, a drug habit.. there's no way to know. If you're prepared to take on the small project that it could turn out to be then invest the time and energy in being a kind presence in her life, but don't be surprised if she rejects your warmth out of insecurity.
posted by OneHermit at 10:20 PM on January 25, 2013

I also agree with the previous posters who've suggested anonymous gift cards.. if there's a major grocery store nearby that offers them, or a Target or someplace like that.. that's a great idea.
posted by OneHermit at 10:25 PM on January 25, 2013

Why not throw a party or mixer for the six families in your complex? It's always nice to meet the neighbors and now you have a non-creepy chance to get in touch with her. Since it's such a small group (and there is already an email list), you don't have to start with a formal invite; just throw out the idea, suggest some dates, and make sure to pick one the neighbor in question can attend. Where you take it during and after the party with this neighbor is up to you and what common sense and social grace best dictate.
posted by whitewall at 10:56 PM on January 25, 2013

I think giving money or a gift card anonymously is a great thing to do. A close friend of mine just died. If there is a heaven, she is there. She was once helped by a group of people when she was in dire straits. To pay it back she helped others anonymously. She used me more than once to slip money into mailboxes or purses. Sometimes people would call me to tell me about what they found. They never felt that it was creepy. They were just given a little relief for a period time and were grateful. I never told them I already knew or who the giver was.

As far as inviting her into your life. I would want to know more about her before I would do that. She might be lonely and miserable for a reason. Everybody deserves help, but not always in my living room.
posted by cairnoflore at 11:44 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Since her blog is the entry point to the outside world, why not send her a gift card over paypal to the email address associated with the blog? Its the connection of the blog to her address that seems creepy .... I would worry that my benefactor might be creepy creepster if it came to my personal address but would feel much better about the whole thing if I felt my home/anonymity was not violated.
posted by zia at 2:46 AM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know if you and she intersect in any way (like, you have cats, she likes cats, you go out of town, she can check in on your cats, for example). My friend lives in a building that has 4 apts, and one of them has two older sisters in the unit -- they love cats, and so my friend hires them to catsit for her pretty often. If you can manage to strike up a little bit of a real-life relationship with her and there is something like this you can work out, it's honest and up front and not weird at all.

Otherwise, if you go through her blog, -- if there is not a tipjar, you could suggest in an anonymous comment that she set one up. Then you know she has a way to get the money -- if you do it through paypal, you don't know that she HAS paypal (some people don't).
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:55 AM on January 26, 2013

I don't think you should. She's already having a rough time. She probably would feel bad about herself if everyone felt bad for her.
posted by discopolo at 12:57 PM on January 26, 2013

The grocery card is a nice idea, but I think it would be really weird and suspicious to anonymously send her a gift card out of the blue. During the holidays you could've done it from yourself to be neighborly, but now you may want to wait for another occasion, be it Valentine's or Easter and something about the start of spring. I wouldn't necessarily do it anonymously, but at a minimum I would try to find an excuse to do it and not just randomly.

If her blog represents her most personal thoughts, maybe you can get some clues as to what she might need to improve her quality of life. If she is poor and she just needs money, that's fine. But maybe there's something else that might bring a smile to her face. You can't give her a puppy, but something puppy-esque in how it will make her feel, haha.

I do like the idea of "accidentally" cooking too much food and bringing her some. The anonymous money will help her with her finances. But the food from a friendly neighbor may make her feel like someone actually gives a shit about her or notices her existence, which might be nice. But of course, the depressed mind can really get stuff backwards and refuse to acknowledge things like that, but could be worth a try to see if she's any warmer toward you or not. If she is, then maybe you will have known it helped. Or like someone said, you could ask her for some help, whether it's hanging a picture or borrowing a cup of sugar (and then bringing her some of what you made as a thank-you). Find a reason to interact with her.

I am just wary that doing something anonymous will seem weird and play with her mind a bit. I think you need to just be as neighborly as you can be given the distance you have. Other people raise good points either way - depends on what is most comfortable for you and what you think will help most.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:42 PM on January 26, 2013

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