I will get to your question, but first must ask my own, which is: why does money do this to us? What is it about money that turns perfectly decent relationships into flaming pits of knives and tears? Why do otherwise sane people, people you would gladly, say, trust to drive you home after dinner, become sweating statues before the bill comes? Why does money split marriages, end friendships, cause suspicion, fear, guilt, the prickling fury of a cat in a bath? I could try and work it out (upbringing, capitalism, inequality, ego, success, competition, the patriarchy?) but that is very much above my pay grade. So instead, onto you.
Onto your “problem”, which, I would argue, is quite the opposite. Give her the money. No, wait, let’s go back. You can afford to lend her the money, but you are concerned that, because of her dodgy husband, who might drink all her savings away, she might not be able to repay you. If that is genuinely (and I’d ask you to really, really prod around inside the guts of your conscience a bit to confirm this) the reason you’re hesitant about lending her the cash, then there is a very simple way to try and recoup your investment by sitting down with her and her online banking app and suggesting a return of, say, £20 a week.
I don’t use the word investment lightly either, because this is exactly what it is – whether or not this ends up being a loan or a gift, this £1,000 is an investment in a friendship that has been great for you, a person that has needed a friend. It is a privilege to be invited to pay that back, to be given the opportunity to show that you are there, that you remember all she did for you in your darkest months, and that you appreciate it. Give her the money. Because not only have you got the funds, you have the memory of what it is like to need a loan. You also have the memory of how difficult it is to ask for one.
All that stuff about how money makes us crazy? She knows that. And yet, she trusts you enough to have asked. It will have taken a night of broken sleep, a small speech prepared in the mirror, a quivering text, perhaps, “Are you ok to talk?” She will have littered her request with opportunities for you to say no, knowing the weight of such a favour, but also knowing that you were the person to ask because, not only do you have the money, but you are a good friend. You are a good friend! Give her the money. It’s not about being mean or foolish, it’s about being decent and understanding, both of the request itself, and the meaning of the cash – she isn’t asking for a loan so she can buy a pair of fancy trainers or upgrade her iPhone. She is asking for a loan so she can apply for UK citizenship. She’s asking for a loan so she can buy a flake of security, so she can relax into her home. I don’t know what her status is right now, but to be a UK citizen means being able to vote, receiving free medical care, being able to live permanently in the UK. What a gift to be able to help a friend receive these most fundamental of rights. Give her the money. Give her the money.