I’m writing this because I’m reminded that for many people, Christmas is the hardest time of year. They feel isolated, alone, lost. They feel like no-one understands what they’re going through.
Someone I knew killed himself a few days ago. He just got tired of hurting, tired of feeling alone, tired of watching the world walk right past him. We didn’t know how bad it was. We never suspected.
I could have written the letter he left behind. He felt like he wasn’t enough, like he’d let his friends and family down. He felt like an outsider. He just never “fit in”. He felt like he’d never get enough done. He felt “overwhelmed”. He felt “lost”.
Suicide rates climb during this time of year as many fall into despair. Many lose both faith and hope.
I want them to know that they aren’t alone. Many of us are getting our butts kicked right now. Many of us don’t know what the New Year will bring. But we can overcome this. We just have to find the strength. We need to let those around us know that we’re struggling. We need to reach out. We all fall down.
To illustrate this, here’s a glimpse into MY personal life;
I’m getting hate mail from people who accuse me of using my “wealth” and position (as a designer/builder of ISBU homes, I suppose) as a platform for “forcing my politics down people’s throats” as we work to help those in need in places like the Philippines, Vietnam, Haiti and other places hard hit by disaster.
They say it’s a “publicity stunt.”
It’s really ironic, actually.
First, even though we’re slowly building a new farm that will become a “teaching center”, we’re actually living in a rented house. We drive ten year old trucks and we live paycheck to paycheck. just like everyone else. At work, management gets paid LAST. There are no “lofty” bank accounts with money collecting dust piled up in them. We “barter” and we use sweat equity and then… we figure out how to cover the rest of our obligations any way that we can, just like every other middle class family in America.
We’ve always maintained the same mission; “Help every family that we can reach.”
You see, FAMILIES built this nation. They are the SPINE that supports everything else that America shoulders.
We’ve helped families through wildfires, floods and natural disasters every chance we had, because empowering people to overcome hardship empowers them to help others. It’s the only way that we know how to help people. We do it “exponentially”, one family at a time… and then we urge them to help families when they are able. The idea is to create more “helping hands”.
While this is happening, we’re trying to recover from each event to prepare for the next one.
After we started the operation in the Philippines (both after the Oct earthquake and then after the Typhoon – Haiyan) we knew that we were committing to a huge project. We started figuring out what was needed and then we acted on it. Lot’s of people and groups pledged help but when it came down to it, little of those promises were any good. They talked and insured that they got publicity, but then when it was time to help cover the expenses they ran like deer fleeing hunters.
(The same thing held true when Colorado flooded and people asked us for help and assistance. We did everything that we could and fell far short of our goals.)
We still had to meet shipping schedules to insure that the aid that was needed would arrive on time. This meant that many of us ponied up everything we had to insure that goods were not only secured, but that they then moved where they were supposed to.
In my family’s case, it meant selling household possessions and stuff like old guitars (that frankly were like children to me, they’d been around so long) to insure that we met our obligations and yet we still fell significantly short.
You could park a truck in the hole that is still left.
And so… my family isn’t having “Christmas” this year, nor did we celebrate the gift-giving of Hanukkah because the money for it simply isn’t there. We’re counted among the lucky who can (barely, at this point) insure that their rent and utility bills are paid right now. Our own savings are flat-lined. I’m just glad that we can make arrangements to extend some of our payment dates out past January 1st. Some families aren’t that lucky.
A few people (I mean like 3) we know offered up a portion of their paychecks to help chip shipping costs down. They knew that we w ere trying to fill a $19,000 hole. They know who they are and we don’t even have the words to thank them enough for helping us.
We simply know that there are people in need, people who are hungry, sick and in need of warmth and shelter who will not get it, unless someone steps up to the plate.
To those of you who promised help and then reneged, I can only shake my head in sadness. You’ve left a giant burden for others to carry, so that promises made can be fulfilled.
We’ve given up something very precious to us (that’s very difficult this year with a young one in the house) to help insure this and I pray that my young son forgives me for it. I’m just glad that he’s young enough that he won’t remember this “screw-up”.
To those who ridicule or mock us for helping others, I offer only this;
“We put our money and our shoulders where our mouths are when people needed our help. What have YOU done lately to help anyone beside yourself?”
Sometimes doing the right thing comes at great cost. It involves sacrifice. I tell myself that we’re fortunate to have jobs, a strong roof over our heads and food to eat. Yet still… I have to go explain to the rest of my family how I “screwed up and killed Christmas”. It’s actually a struggle to do the Christmas tree thing, knowing there’s not gonna be anything under it.
So, forgive me if I’m not feeling “In the Season” right about now. This one really hurts, and hopefully helps drive home this message;
If you know someone that needs help. HELP them. This is the hardest time of year for some of us. Lift them up. Hold them close. Remind them that they’re important to you. It’s easy to feel “lost”. It’s easy to feel alone. It’s easy to just want to give up.
For years in hard places, they used to tell us to “keep our heads on a swivel”. It meant to stay aware and observant.
If you have friends or co-workers who are struggling, reach out to them. Please. Even if it’s just a kind word, or the offer of a cold celebratory beer, it may just save their lives.