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Honoring God by helping others


Community conversations


December 04, 2013 | 10:29 AM

At this time of year, it seems the mailbox is stuffed full every day. It used to be filled with bright and cheerful greeting cards featuring images of jolly Santas, snowmen and inspiring messages with religious symbols. High postal rates, e-mail and social media have made holiday cards of the past almost passé. The Internet features greetings that sing and dance and cost very little. All one has to know is how to run a computer and have an online "friends" list.

These days a new mix of communications awaits us as we head back into the house from the mailbox. Every day we are sent all sorts of solicitations for donations to worthy and needy causes. After a while, it is understandable that we want to cry out, "Enough already, folks." But what is this overload of requests for financial assistance really saying to us this holiday season?

Most of us relate Christmas and Hanukkah with the giving of gifts. Our religious stories tell us of the "wise men of the East" and of individuals of little means coming forth in our own time with gifts that honor others. Our traditions vary with our interpretations of what we each see as holy writings. But the core of all of our expressions at this season is that God loves us infinitely and expresses this with the gifts of life.

The message to us is that the story does not stop here. We are charged to "go and do likewise." Most of the solicitations sent to us through the mail are reminding us to do just that. Whether it is a program to feed the hungry in Southern Indiana or to assist storm victims in the Philippines, it is an urgent request to help make the lives of others better.

We pride ourselves in living in a country where we have programs and institutions that represent the needs and provide the opportunities for all of our citizens. I am reminded of the advantages of our American governmental and social system every time I venture into a foreign country. Finding a workable, humane and adequate balance in a program of welfare for citizens is no easy task. With the divide between the economic "haves and have nots" widening all over the globe, the task to enrich the whole community becomes even harder. We know that, in an interlocked world, if one country or specific group suffers from the loss of adequate resources for a healthy life, we all will be affected adversely, economically, environmentally, health wise and in our political security.

For the answer to "why am I getting so many requests for financial aid," we contacted Rick Cooper, the executive directive of Harrison County Community Services. It seemed to me that having a full stomach was pretty basic and would be a good indicator of how people were getting along. Cooper sent me detailed charts showing the distribution of our "food insecurity." I deduced that food insecurity meant not knowing from where your next meal was coming. Imagine not knowing if you would have something to eat. Instead, most of us worry that we are eating too much and we read constantly that our overweight society is nearing a health epidemic.

Here are the facts on the other end of the spectrum: In Indiana, 22.7 percent, or 355,780, of our children are food insecure, almost the same percentage as the national average. Zeroing in on our own backyard: Crawford County has 24 percent of its children food insecure. That is 610 kids. In Harrison County, 19.1 percent, or 1,750 children, do not have enough to eat. Among adults, the percentages are not quite so bad. This makes me wonder how well we care "for the least of these," as we are encouraged to do by our religious teachings.

You might log on to the Feeding America website and take the short quiz offered. You will be surprised who these hungry people are.

We assume that, in our country, hunger problems are solved by our federal and state programs. But that is not the case. Rounding out the numbers, it is about 30 percent of the hungry who do not qualify for reduced price school meals, food stamps or any other government program. These folks will only be helped by charitable organizations that send you solicitations to help buy food for the hungry at this time of year.

You are also receiving requests to help with a great variety of needs beyond just feeding people. It takes nutrients of different kinds to feed our minds, spirits and bodies: housing, clothes, education, etc. None of us can change the world by ourselves, but we each can help make other people's lives better. There are countless ways you can share your skills and resources. Remember the little drummer boy in the famous Yule carol? He had no gift of gold to give, so he did what he could: he played his drum for the Christ Child.

What can you give this holy season in honor of a God who loves you?

Barbara Shaw
Debby Broughton
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Corydon Democrat, 301 N. Capitol Ave., Corydon, IN 47112 1-812-738-2211 email