As we hit the final stretch of Christmas preparations, it’s well that we slow the pace for a while and give some thought to neighbours who may be less fortunate than ourselves.
Homelessness and poverty may seem to be invisible problems to some, however every volunteer and social service agency in Hope can tell you they are nonetheless real.
There are vulnerable people in our community—people on fixed incomes such as disability and old-age pensions, those eking out a bare living from low-paying jobs, those who must rely on the kindness of family and friends to keep a roof over their heads.
As they get squeezed by rising rents (the spectre of renoviction is more than a Dickensian Christmas ghost, alas) and punishing food and medication costs, making ends meet is well-nigh impossible, while homelessness looms as a very real possibility.
When temperatures hit zero, or continuing wind chill or inclement weather poses a genuine health risk, a shelter does offer solace for some—whether they are actually homeless or living in low-rent accommodation with insufficient heat.
Those tasked with providing support know that it can only be a stop-gap solution at best—the grim cycle of poverty and homelessness doesn’t end when the season passes and temperatures rise.
If we’re tempted to say these misfortunes are not our problems, we should pause and reflect on the meaning for all the celebrations we have at this time of year. Our tradition of giving Christmas gifts, after all, is based on a notion of honouring gifts that we ourselves have received.
Whether we do this as a tenet of religion, or out of whatever our belief system may be, we must acknowledge that the underlying concept of the holiday is rooted in being a good neighbour.
Let thought for the less fortunate be part of our wishes and actions this Christmas and in the new year ahead.