Every year about this time, we begin to get letters with requests for donations of warm clothes, winter accessories, food, gift cards and new toys to help the less fortunate through the holidays and colder months.
In spite of national media reports of a restored economy, the list of those in need seems to get more extensive each year. The needy encompasses many different groups, with some peoples’ focus on the children of prison inmates, veterans, and the elderly nationwide, while others focus on those of their own hometown.
Whether it’s a request for a monetary donation, a gift in answer to a request of an ornament on a Giving Tree, or a concert admission benefiting a certain cause, fund drives are seen everywhere as the holidays approach. Even schoolchildren get lessons in helping others as they collect change or canned food for their less fortunate friends.
We live in towns with relatively high income levels and don’t have much occasion to come across people who appear to be suffering from a lack of money, yet there are homeless children in our schools, or of families with both parents working multiple jobs just to stay afloat. There are soup kitchens and food pantries that regularly strain to feed those in need, and high numbers of children qualifying by family income (or lack thereof) for free and reduced lunch at school. Two feeding programs for children ran this past summer in Derry to make sure youngsters continued to be fed while school was not in session.
The economy surely is better than it has been, but that improvement hasn’t brought with it higher wages to meet an ever-increasing cost of living. And with Congress choosing not to make health care and insurance affordable this coming year to persons struggling to get by on the Social Security they paid out during their working years (even as Medicare costs rise) we can expect more of our elders to have to make the unfathomable choice of food or rent or medicine. And those same elderly folks are often the least likely to ask for help.
For those of us fortunate enough to have jobs or a retirement income that allows us to pay our bills and give our family some extras, we invite you to consider the requests for help that highlight the coming holiday season. Some extra food, a pair of gloves and a scarf, or a toy for a child who might not otherwise get one are all small sacrifices to make in light of the help and happiness they will bring.
And that’s truly part of the spirit of the holiday season. It is truly a gift, having the means to give.