Johnny Whitmire doesn't want your money, thank you. He could also do without your pity.
What he would like is a chance to express his gratitude for your concern and prayers.
"If you get another chance to write a word or two about me, tell everybody thank you," Whitmire told me by telephone Monday night. "Thank you for your thoughts and prayers for me and my family. Thank you for caring a bit about my story and about the millions of people like me."
Since the publication of our cover story about Americans' loss of faith in social institutions, Whitmire has heard from one politician (Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind.) and one media outlet (FOX News), and he has read nearly every word posted online about the story.
So there are a few of things he'd like to clear up.
First, though he voted for Obama and is disappointed in his presidency, Whitmire says he's not out to blast or even blame the president. "I don't fault Obama over the loss of my house," he said. "Just because he was president and put the Obama modification plan in effect doesn't mean he has to take 100 percent of the blame. Why not go after the banks?"
"This is bigger than the president," he continued. "We're supposed to be America. We're supposed to unite together but instead it feels like nothing works any more."
Second, he appreciates the many offers to help him raise money but "I didn't do this for a free handout. I just want people to realize somebody needs to do something. We need to pull together and help each other. If I can help stop this from happening to Pete in Florida and Tom in Detroit, I'd be a happy man." By the way, Whitmire recently got his constuction job back; the season layoff expired.
Third, he appreciates Pence for calling him Friday night. The congressman offered to have his staff press Whitmire's mortgage company for answers. Several months ago, coincidentally, Pence's staff helped Whitmire's wife with a Social Security dispute.
(I interviewed Pence a week before my trip to Muncie, which he represents. Pence told me that he talks about the breakdown of social institutions as part of his stump speech. "That's the part that gets people's heads nodding every time," the congressman said.)
Lastly, Whitmire wanted to thank me. "You listened to my story when everybody else was saying, "So what?" about Johnny Whitmire."
I hung up with a pit in my stomach and a question: Why would anybody say "So what?" to the millions of Johnny Whitmires in America?