“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” — Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.
With Christmas fast approaching, most of us will be rushing about — either to the stores and malls or on-line — to do our holiday shopping in hopes of finding that “perfect” gift for our family members and loved ones.
Despite the pandemic that has ravaged our nation in so many ways, most Americans actually are doing okay, if not extremely well. Sure, the pandemic has made life inconvenient and not as enjoyable as usual for everybody, but most of us are getting along just fine.
Those who are able to work from home have not suffered a loss of income. And for those among us who have any sort of investments, from real estate to the stock market to certain types of small businesses, the pandemic has been a boon.
However, the good economic news for the majority of Americans has not been shared by all. For a sizable minority of our fellow citizens, the effects of the pandemic represent an existential disaster.
Millions of Americans of all ages, in a percentage greater than at any time since the Great Depression, are struggling financially.
To put it in stark terms, more Americans, including families in our own communities, are going hungry than at any time in our history. The lines of cars that stretch for miles and miles in cities all across the country are the equivalent of the iconic photos of the bread lines and soup kitchens of the 1930s..
Far too many of our fellow citizens, including children, live either in shelters or in similar temporary housing arrangements — or on the streets — because the reality of our economy has left them out in the cold — literally — thanks to the pandemic.
The homeless always have been among us, but the scope and depth of the problem is far beyond anything that has been experienced in our lifetime. The vast discrepancy between the enormous wealth enjoyed by some Americans and the abject poverty being endured by others is similar to what has existed in major urban centers in South America and India — but it now is happening right here in the U.S.A.
For these millions of Americans, the holiday season brings no joy.
Psychologists tell us that the Biblical directive, that we should give to those who are less fortunate, actually is the best gift that we can give to ourselves. Helping others activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating the so-called “warm glow” effect.
Never in the lifetime of anybody reading this editorial has the need for donations to local food banks been more urgent. There will be ample opportunity to do so in the coming weeks to make the holidays brighter for those who are less fortunate — and there is no excuse for failing to do so.