RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Renee Montagne.
We've spent this Thanksgiving week examining relationships between siblings -from the uplifting to the difficult, the sweet to the ridiculous. Siblings can become closer when times get tough. NPR's Margot Adler has this story of a sister who helped her brother get on his feet financially years ago. Now they're both suffering in this economic downturn and they are supporting each other.
MARGOT ADLER: Eight years ago, Shannon Lynch Siegler, now a mother of three in New Jersey, invited her brother to move in with her family. She didn't see him often but she wanted him to help care for her newborn son. I can't imagine how life would be today for either of us, she wrote to NPR, if we had not re-found each other through my son.
Our interview took place at a mall in Woodbridge, New Jersey, where Christopher Lynch, Shannon's brother, works at a cell phone store.
Mr. CHRISTOPHER LYNCH: This one here is the one I personally have, is the Captivate. It's a full touch-screen phone. It's got the fastest processer in the industry now.
ADLER: But eight years ago, Lynch didn't even have a job. He had dropped out of college, was living with his mom in a small upstate New York town where, at least according to the brother and sister, there wasn't much of anything. He saw his sister maybe once or twice a year. Shannon and her husband were about to have a baby, and child care seemed totally unaffordable.
Ms. SHANNON SIEGLER: I don't want to leave my newborn with a stranger, and all this stuff.
ADLER: And you were working at the time?
Ms. SIEGLER: I was working at the time. I was working in the city and my husband was working in Hackensack.
ADLER: And you were feeling at the time?
Mr. LYNCH: Frustrated. I was frustrated being where I was, pretty much directionless. I had done some college, but I didn't really feel the need to do more, especially living in that area. Nobody went to college, you know. There's a lot of people that just did a lot of blue collar jobs, and I knew I didn't want to be that, but I didn't know what I wanted to be.
ADLER: But Shannon and her husband were doing better than Chris. She worked in insurance and her husband was starting out as an employment lawyer. So they invited Chris to move to New Jersey to live with them and to take care of their son. Shannon said kids loved Chris - he was a big kid himself - but would he be responsible?
Ms. SIEGLER: I wasn't exactly sure how he was going to react to it, and at this point I didn't know him that well anymore, you know what I mean? Like, he was my brother and I saw him on occasion, but I wasn't, like, close, close with him.
ADLER: As for Chris's immediate reaction?
Mr. LYNCH: Well, my first thought when she asked me was, oh crap, nanny? Really? I didn't think I was good with kids. You know, I was just like I have no idea how I'm going to change diapers. I don't want to touch, you know, what comes out of there. But then I kept thinking about it and I'm like this really is kind of a way out of what I'm doing right now and it gave kind of me hope to do something else.
ADLER: And Shannon also gives a little background.
Ms. SIEGLER: Our father was an alcoholic and our mother was depressed, although I don't think we would have identified that as kids. We just knew that they weren't - in some ways they weren't reliable.
ADLER: So Shannon was attempting to rescue her brother from continuing in a sad cycle. Chris felt alone, emotionally abandoned, he wanted more, didn't know what. As it turned out, Chris was meant to be a dad.
Mr. LYNCH: It was one of the first few things I really loved staying with, you know, and as I did it, it became easier, you know, became a really joyful job. One of the most rewarding jobs that I ever had.
ADLER: After a couple of years, he moved out, got married and had kids of his own. But he's still part of Shannon's family and life. They're best friends. What he wants for his own kids?
Mr. LYNCH: I want to make sure that, you know, I'm the dad that I didn't have.
Ms. SIEGLER: I can't imagine what his life would have been like if he had stayed. We would not have had this relationship.
CHARLIE: (Singing) E-e, a-a...
ADLER: On a Friday evening, Charlie, the kid who Chris moved down to take care of, is practicing the cello. He's just started playing. He's now eight. His younger brother and sister are drawing. Steve, Shannon's husband, is on the computer. Pizza is warming in the oven.
Ms. SIEGLER: Guys, let's put this away for a little bit now. Come on.
Mr. STEVE SIEGLER: Put the drawing away, guys.
Ms. SIEGLER: We got to eat. OK. You can go back to the O. We know exactly where you left off.
CHARLIE: I don't really want any. I'll go make myself some cereal.
Ms. SIEGLER: You don't want pizza?
ADLER: What you don't see is that Shannon and Steve are now having their own serious economic difficulties. Steve's clients often can't pay him. The family's going through debt consolidation. Their entire pension is their home, which has lost $100,000 dollars in value, but exuberant kid life goes on.
Everyone gets into their uniforms for a Cub Scout meeting at a local school. Both parents are leaders. There are badges to give out and the induction of new scouts.
Mr. SIEGLER: And you get a green mark on each of your cheeks, which symbolizes the spirit of nature to guide the Cub Scout - you - in living harmony with the great outdoors.
ADLER: After they recite the Cub Scout promise...
Mr. SIEGLER: Congratulations, Bobcats.
(Soundbite of applause)
ADLER: As for Chris, life still isn't easy. He is going through divorce; he has a new baby, a new family - four kids in all. His ex-wife is going through bankruptcy and there's a lot of debt. Yet Shannon smiles when she thinks of how her brother Chris has changed, and that she might have played a small part.
Ms. SIEGLER: If you're truly a friend and you're truly someone who loves another person, you want to see them be able to be what they can be - maybe not every single thing they can be, but that they can get some kind of achievement that will make them feel proud of themselves in their life. And you want to see that for them.
ADLER: When you look at these two families, you notice something else. They're trying to give their kids a good life but they also have their own dreams. Besides repairing cell phones and taking care of his kids, Chris Lynch is writing a suspense novel. So when I ask Shannon what are her dreams for her brother, she says...
Ms. SIEGLER: I would like to see him be the author he wants to be.
ADLER: With the love and support of a sibling, who knows what dreams can be realized?
Margot Adler, NPR News.
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