It’s now more important than ever to mind each other

To the children who sat through school this morning with empty rumbling tummies, the talk of the return of property boom means nothing. To the people who walk through town this week, staring at the windows, eyeing things they know they cannot afford, talk of a recovery means little. They stumble on, upright but overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness.

Poverty is not illustrated in Dickensesque urchin-like appearance anymore. Modern poverty is not carried around hanging off the ends of tattered clothes like it once used to. Modern poverty lives in the eyes and the hearts and souls of people, hidden but felt.

This week the St Vincent de Paul Society in Galway issued its appeal for help as it does at this time of the year and it felt it important to reiterate that a perceived recovery in some financial index somewhere is not being felt in the pockets of the people who need its services.

The demand for the society will always exist now because many people have entered a spiral from which they will never exit. Families have been thrown into a maelstrom by the events of the past decade.

Like homelessness, it can be brought upon you at any given time, at any given juncture between a trauma in your life and a short term crisis. For all our progression and advancement over the decades, never before have so many people among us been so close to security and homelessness at the same time. Never before have so many walked that fine line of comfort and poverty. For the vast majority of us, it just takes one crisis to change everything.

Wages are not increasing, costs are not decreasing, the pressures to spend are still as strong, the disincentive to save, equally strong — and that would be if there was ever even a chance to have something spare to save.

For many families, the advent of Christmas is a terrifying one. This year it seems to have crept up out of nowhere, helped perhaps by the mild weather and the beautiful autumn which distracted us from the needless fuss which we heap upon ourselves at this time of year.

Galway SVP president Belinda Mullen this week highlighted the juggling act that most families on the edge are having to perform to prevent their children from going to school hungry, keeping them from being cold at night.

It is more than just money that the SVP give — its members provide a friendly ear for the problems that seem insurmountable to people in crisis, but which can be halved by some helpful intervention.

This year perhaps the mild weather was sent for a reason, the beauty of nature there to tell us to chill the hell down, to not let Christmas be the stress magnet it always will.

For those who can help, we ask you to do so — either by volunteering with the SVP, donating to its collections or by even putting up a Giving Tree in your business or workplace to act as a magnet for donations of toys or food.

The events of the past few weeks have shown us that the world is not a friendly place for the most vulnerable at the moment. The language of hate and exclusion has rippled down from the top to the point where it has become acceptable discourse to mock or discount the feelings of others.

This Christmas and at this time in general, we all need to look out for those who might find themselves on the end of such division. Now, more than ever, it is important that we show unity and help each other. Do something. Anything. Help SVP.

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