Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Who do we consider to be the "other"?

This column is near and dear to my heart. Newly posted on The Holmes Bargain Hunter

This morning, I have a very large mug of java steaming beside me as I type - on a computer with working Internet. This is the norm, it’s a taken-for-granted luxury that I know will be in my cupboard for me to pull out and brew every day of my life. I know when I turn on my computer the Internet will hum into working order. It’s called comfort and the knowing of things that will be. This morning, someone will get up and get dressed, head very early into work hoping to get a cup of coffee there because their cupboard is nearly bare. This person will look very normal, dressed in what our world deems “regular” clothing. They will drive into work in a car that is decent, and will get them to and from where they need to go, but never very far. That mysterious noise it is making might eventually get louder and you don’t want to be on the road when that happens. Taking it in for service is not a choice right now because the electric bill is due this week. Choices are what life seems to be made up of, hard ones and soft ones. Some of us will never have to make tough life choices. Life on the edge of the abyss, where you tread softly and hope there isn’t a major catastrophe to throw you over: a dryer dying, several tires going flat, a stove stops heating. These are the things that for most of us wouldn’t be worthy of batting an eye. Then there are those of us that an incident smaller than these I stated, cause that abyss to yawn even larger and wider. That appliance can’t be fixed with love.

We live in a society that ignores this sector, or doesn’t seem to know they exist. We are either rich or poor. If you have experienced poverty you know there really is no middle class – because the middle class are rich as well. They HAVE. To the world, this section of people looks normal. They own houses, they own cars, they dress in ways not “poor” as ridiculous as that sounds. They go to work, or make the choice to stay home and raise their children. They pay their bills and taxes and sometimes don’t have enough to buy groceries, so the electric bill doesn’t always get paid. But they are working – working and contributing – yet they remain the working poor. These people are invisible to most. They become visible if they get help - and are judged harshly by others that say they are taking advantage of Uncle Sam’s dime. Where has the viciousness come from, my friends? The words, the cartoons, the outrage that spews on social media and elsewhere? We have been reduced to a society that doesn’t care for our poor. We have been reduced to hate for anyone that needs help. We turn the other cheek and get in our working cars and drive away, to our homes that are warm and full of coffee and milk. Homes with freezers full of meat. We each make our own way, and to have is never a bad thing. It’s the not sharing that is the shame. 

Christmas, above all else, should be a time of plenty and not want. I’ve been touched by several souls that have expressed a hatred for December and all it brings. The Christmas season, above all, should be the one time everyone feels loved. Yet for a lot of people, it only reiterates what they can’t give or afford. This is not whining. This is not complaining. This is fact. I have been moved to tears over their feelings of despondency and am trying to figure out how I can help. With Christmas full on us, I’m hoping a way opens up for me to show my love for them. To give with a smile, not a heart that is PROUD about the giving. 

While my husband and I work and provide gifts for our children every Christmas, there were very lean times as well. There were times when I was on my knees begging God to change our situation. With my nose pressed to the floor, I lay there and asked what I could do differently. When situations are dire, you either stay down or you get creative. Even with those feelings of despondency you learn to make the best of your situation. These are the people who learn to live more simply, learn the rules of couponing and find ways to bring food to the table when there isn’t enough money. There is resiliency in the working poor. We must find ways to help them and not turn away because we feel it will create a “dependency” on good deeds. They will continue to work, and they will continue to make choices for their families that – in our ambient light – seem like not good decisions. When you are working and still can’t afford health care, or can’t afford your mortgage that is upside down – then you can say that their decision was not a good one, because then, you will have walked a mile in their shoes. Let’s do better. Let’s love and not hate. Let’s give and not remain selfish.