“Families are forced to make unconscionable choices on a daily basis: housing for food; transportation for utilities; a job instead of school; gasoline instead of health care,” says Steven McCullough, formerly with Bethel New Life, based in Chicago.
While our image of those who are poor might be the homeless people we see in the streets or at meal programs, there are many more people struggling in silence, their pain invisible.
They may be sitting next to you in Sunday worship or waiting behind you in the grocery checkout line.
They may be standing at a bus stop because they can no longer afford the fuel or repair costs for their car. In short, they could be any one.
Economic pressures are showing at programs such as The Sharing Place, a food and clothing ministry of Lutheran Child & Family Services in Indianapolis, where requests are up and donations have been down.
According to a coalition of national organizations concerned about the effects of our faltering economy, inflation-adjusted weekly wages have risen only 1.4 percent in the last seven years, while food prices have increased 21.6 percent and fuel and utility costs have jumped 36.3 percent.
Many families, people with disabilities, seniors and others with low incomes and fixed incomes spend up to 17 percent of their income on home energy bills.
Lutheran Services in America member organizations and congregations work together to help families struggling with such basic costs.
Christ Lutheran Church in Blaine, Minn., partners with a program that houses up to 12 children by providing items like school supplies, Valentine gifts and haircuts.
Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey runs an annual Back-to-School Backpack Program, which donors fill with school supplies and other necessities.
Congregation members can increase their awareness of those in their communities who might be in need in these ways:
- Invite someone from your local Lutheran social ministry organization to give a talk on needs in the community.
- Help a neighbor find services. Lutheran Services in America has a database searchable by location and service on its Web site.
- Host a neighbor exchange where people can offer and find a range of things from consumables to household items, services and volunteer time. Invite your local Lutheran social ministry organization to co-host the event.
“These stressful times offer us an opportunity to realize that we are all connected and that safety and freedom can come from knowing that neighbors will care for us, just as we care for our neighbors,” says Jill Schumann, president and CEO of Lutheran Services in America.