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My husband and I were driving around Bloomington this past weekend, and couldn't help but notice two huge, wooden signs posted in front of two homes in different areas of the city.  Both advertised upcoming home auctions.  We were horrified by the size of the signs and talked about how we hoped the people had already moved out and didn't have to suffer through that added humiliation.

We lost our business, and then (because we had spent all of our money trying to save it) our home in the upheaval following 9/11.  We've been there.  It's a nightmare.

Then we mused aloud about how fun it would be - if we had the money - to buy a foreclosed house at an auction and hand it back to the owner.  

Just like Texan Marilyn Mock apparently did for a total stranger at a home auction Saturday... probably around the time we were having our little 'Santa' fantasy.

(CNN) -- Tracy Orr sat in the back of the room and prepared to watch her foreclosed home go up for auction this past Saturday. That's when a pesky stranger sat down beside her and struck up a conversation.

"Are you here to buy a house?" Marilyn Mock said.

Orr couldn't hold it in. The tears flowed. She pointed to the auction brochure at a home that didn't have a picture. "That's my house," she said.

Within moments, the four-bedroom, two-bath home in Pottsboro, Texas, went up for sale. People up front began casting their bids. The home that Orr purchased in September 2004 was slipping away.

She stood and moved toward the crowd. Behind her, Mock got into the action.

"She didn't know I was doing it," Mock says. "I just kept asking her if [her home] was worth it, and she just kept crying. She probably thought I was crazy, 'Why does this woman keep asking me that?' "

Mock says she bought the home for about $30,000. That's when Mock did what most bidders at a foreclosure auction never do.

"She said, 'I did this for you. I'm doing this for you,' " Orr says. "When it was all done, I was just in shock."

I immediately fired off an email to my husband -- "Someone actually DID IT!"  

The fact is... this is the sort of selflessness that used to (and I believe still does) define us as Americans.  We are not the sum total of the bad apples among us.  Every society has people who are afraid or who hate.  And we are certainly not defined by the differences that some would drum up and emphasize to make us feel alienated from each other.  

NO -- I have heard it said (and by a friend in Europe) that Americans are at their best when things are worst.

Why be so generous?

"She was just so sad. You put yourself in their situation and you realize you just got to do something," says Mock, who says she has trouble walking by homeless people on the street and not helping them out.

"If it was you, you'd want somebody to stop and help you."

This is who we really are.... or certainly who we can be, at our best.

Mock didn't have the means to buy the house 'no strings attached;' she put one of her business dump trucks up as collateral for the loan.  What she provided wasn't a hand out, but a helping hand to a neighbor in need.  Orr was able to stay in her home... and Mock made made a new fishing friend:

Mock says she's excited for another reason too. Orr's house is located near a Texas fishing hot-spot. "She says I can come up there and fish, and I love to fish!"

Orr, who nearly lost her home, says her newfound friend has "given me back faith and hope to keep going and hold my head up."

If we are in fact facing another depression (like the Great Depression that our parents and grandparents lived through,) we will undoubtedly find ourselves pulling together as communities and taking care of each other.    Not charity... just neighborly compassion, as we all seek shelter in these troubled times.

UPDATE:  Digg the original CNN Story (thanks Laughing Vergil!)

UPDATE II:  Added a few lines about the fact that Mock didn't provide a handout; she simply provided assistance when Orr was out of other options (a good suggestion from the crowd.)  Also added a video that I found last year and suddenly find painfully relevant (already stuck it down there somewhere in a comment.)  

Cheers, and glad this story meant as much to everyone here as it did to me!

Originally posted to feduphoosier on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 11:22 AM PDT.

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