When I met Fel in college, her Mum had terminal breast cancer. She was diagnosed half way through Fel's final year of high school, and given three months to live. Fel adored her mum. From the sounds of things, she was an amazing person and I'm selfishly glad to have not met her, because her loss would have been shattering.
Fel was a very high achieving student. And when she received the news her grades absolutely tanked. Her mother lived for a year. Passing away shortly before exams in '02. Fel got the call to make a trip back home about a week or so before. She came in and told me that she would be leaving, could I water her plants and she hoped she had enough money to get petrol. I immediately handed over my last $20 and bade her to drive safe.
She went into her room to throw a bag of stuff together. It must have taken about 20 minutes. In that time I spoke to someone else in my hall who was (rightfully) quite popular and between us we made a quick whip around. I think we managed to raise $230 (or something like that). Pretty much everybody had a few dollars to kick in. People she didn't know were dropping by to wish her well and help out. The look on her face showed so much. Absolute relief. Gratitude. It was one less thing that she had to stress about. She knew that we were there for her, even though we couldn't be there when it all happened. It was an indication of our intention to be there if and when she needed us. If that even makes any sense.
A few people kicked in after she'd gone. I think we got her a card and some flowers. And a hallmate and I travelled to her home town, to just be there for her on the day of the funeral.
I'm telling this story so that you will understand that helping out/kicking in really does matter. Please, if you haven't done so already, check out a quick version of recent tragedies here.