The Friend I Never Met

10/16/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The term friendship speaks to cooperation, good will, and support between two individuals. Can you befriend someone you've never met? I hope you will feel the same way as I do.

I don't know Lori Hall Steele personally but feel linked to her in many ways. She is a freelance writer who has one son, a 7-year old named Jackson. Like me, she is a member of both the American Society of Journalists (ASJA) and Freelance Success. We have virtual friends in common with whom we've both connected on various forums.

The writing community sadly learned that Lori was battling for her life at the age of 44 and felt compelled to help. The story is frightening because it could happen to any one of us. Almost a year ago, this otherwise healthy and vital young woman experienced a mysterious weakness in her feet. Then the paralysis spread to her arms and legs and she became wheel-chair bound. When she was no longer able to use her hands to write, Lori's freelance career came to a screeching halt. Simultaneously, the extraordinary medical bills started piling on.

In February, 2008, Lori's mom, Shannon, moved from Florida to Traverse City, Michigan to care for her daughter and grandson. In the spring, Lori was finally diagnosed with a bad case of Lyme disease. But instead of bouncing back and recovering as everyone had hoped she would, her condition only worsened and the suspected diagnosis was a more ominous neurodegenerative disorder: Lou Gehrig's disease (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS). Lori is now on a breathing machine in a hospital bed.

I feel very proud to be part of a writing community that has circled around a woman that many have only met once or twice, or like myself, only know virtually. Because of her deteriorating medical condition and dire financial circumstances, her home was days away from foreclosure. While her friends were impotent in fighting her devastating illness, they embarked on an effort to preserve her home to provide whatever modicum of stability they could to her son, her mother, and to Lori.

Through newspaper articles, a blogathon, web postings, emails, and a modest grant from the ASJA writer's emergency assistance fund, freelancers began chipping in $25 each to save Lori's house. You can read more about Lori's plight at either or A yellow button makes it easy to make a small donation through Paypal if you so choose.

As of September 13th, Lori's friend and cheerleader, freelancer Kristen Hains, reported that $17,000 had been collected by and from friends of Lori. "Her house is saved," wrote Kristen . "When I brought the mail into the house today, I took it over to Lori's bed, opened her hand for her and then placed in it her hand so that she could feel the magnitude of it all," she wrote.

Kristen said that Lori was overwhelmed and amazed as her eyes welled up with tears. "Her gratitude goes deeper than I could ever even put into words," wrote Kristen.

To learn more about ALS, go to the NIH Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Information Page.

Irene S. Levine, PhD is a freelance journalist and author who blogs about female friendships at HuffPo and She is a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine and is working on a book about female friendships, Best Friends Forever, which will be published by Overlook Press.