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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

Not everyone will be helped this holiday

Sunday, November 26, 2006

OK, so we have one holiday out of the way and one big one just weeks away. I don't mean to sound like Scrooge - though many would disagree - but let's all admit we've lost much of the true meaning of the holiday season. It's over-commercialized, it's frantic pressure and it's highly disruptive of the routine which I admit brings me comfort.

But on the brighter side, it is a time of reuniting with loved ones, of sharing the meaning of the season with others and of counting our blessings. Or at least it should be.

Everyone knows we have people in our own community who will have little to no Christmas this year. Some of those families have faced dire circumstances and need a helping hand this year. Others will have limited joy because of bad decisions they have made and continue to make on a daily basis. We all share in the desire to help others but deep inside, we also hold in contempt those whose families will suffer because of their bad choices in life.

And here's the tricky part. It's difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish the two.

For nearly 30 years now, this newspaper has conducted the annual Community Christmas Campaign. In recent years however, we have drastically changed the program. There is no need for anyone to apply for assistance and share their tales of woes. We hear the same stories year in and year out. It's not that we're cynical but after nearly 30 years, it becomes easier to separate the needy from the wanting. And there is a difference.

Instead, we have names supplied to us and we provide holiday baskets and toys for those and those alone. We once thought we could provide for every single resident in need within our community. We were wrong. It's been a sobering experience - sometimes pleasant and reaffirming, sometimes infuriating and frustrating. I can only image those in the social service delivery system who deal with this population daily. I do not envy their task.

We've found through the Christmas Campaign that we can help more elderly than we can families. The needs are similar and, in many instances, the requests are much more easily provided.

Here's part of the frustration and it's but one small example. When you stand in line at a convenience store, talking on a cell phone and buying scratch-off lottery tickets, there's no need to ask for financial assistance for your kids because your request will be ignored. And if you're driving a vehicle that is better than mine, chances are your request will go ungranted.

I know these are poor examples perhaps. But they are honest evaluations of the choices people make. And then, when they make those poor choices, they look to others to correct their mistakes and help them in a time of need. If we or anyone else provides for the need of this population, we become part of the problem and not part of the solution. Of that, I am certain.

Why is there chronic poverty in our community? The reasons are abundant. But near the top of that list would be a population that lacks the resolve to change their position and lacks a willingness to make the sacrifices to change their place in society. Everyone can from time to time face circumstances beyond their control. That is understandable.

But you know the population I describe. They come in all shapes and sizes and all colors and backgrounds. They ask for help especially at this time of year because those bad choices have finally caught up with them and their options are limited.

The time to recognize that is not now. The time was when those bad choices were being made and the sacrifices ignored.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen