A Pastor's Student Loan Debt Pastor Dan Lozer's struggles to repay student loans prompted listeners to want to send money to help him. For reporters that creates a dilemma.

A Pastor's Student Loan Debt

A Pastor's Student Loan Debt

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As the stories of people who are in trouble are told, listeners and readers sometimes want to help.

That was the case for a story about an Iowa pastor and his student-loan debt. Dan Lozer's tiny paycheck means he'll be paying off those loans until 2029.

While some listeners said they thought Dan Lozer was a deadbeat in a pastor's job, other said he came across more like George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, the popular 1946 film.

Maybe that's because George Bailey's name came up during the interview with Lozer in Sioux City, Iowa. It was when Lozer said there was a time when he thought about suicide. He was tapping the table, out of nerves.

"Well, you remember that scene in It's a Wonderful Life when he says you're worth more dead than alive? It's like I'd be out of debt," said Lozer.

One listener responded to the story by saying: "My husband just found $50.00 in an old box as he was cleaning out the garage last Saturday and I would like to be the first contributor to 'Dollars for Dan.' Could I send it to NPR or the Education Dept?"

This happens a lot. In fact, National Public Radio's Listener Services unit says it happens hundreds of times a year. And that's not counting how listeners responded after Hurricane Katrina.

Listeners' e-mails about Dan Lozer were forwarded to him. He has encouraged them to donate instead to young students just starting out — to help them avoid what happened to him.

This reporter feels pulled a little when listeners ask to donate due to concerns the larger story may have been upstaged in the drama of one life?

"After all, there are plenty of people in the situation that Dan Lozer is in."