In all of our communities right now, there are husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, who have lost their jobs and are wondering how they are going to make it through the winter and out the far side. They know that there are but a few weeks to Christmas yet they have never been as badly prepared as they are this year. Thousands of homes will experience a Christmas the likes of which they have not experienced for some years.
For all of them, this new situation is coming as a shock. Their bodies go into shutdown, their minds try to come to terms with the new reality that money is not as plentiful and every decision will have to be calculated. The comfort of the past few years left them ill-prepared for it and now, although they know that it is a common situation, they do not know where to turn to for help. Factors such as pride prevent them from turning to others, letting people know the truth. And so many will sit in their nice negative-equitied homes, with their children going cold and hungry.
In short, they feel that they have failed themselves and their families by allowing themselves to be sucked into this situation. These were the comfortable families of the Tiger period — and these are the people who most of all this Christmas need to pick up the phone and call the St Vincent de Paul society.
In this county, I have heard many examples in the past week of middle class families with fine houses, suffering in silence within, with no heating, power disconnected, jobs gone, pride in pieces. The people who for years gave generously to the St Vincent de Paul because they knew what sterling work they do, are now the families who need their help, but are just too damn proud to ask. Children are not knowing or understanding why it is that their lives have changed. And in such a vacuum, decisions are not rational. Problems seem magnified.
In Galway city and county in the past four weeks, more than a dozen people have taken their own lives and you can be sure the figure is replicated throughout the State. With the prevailing cloud of doom and gloom, people find themselves all consumed by it, unable to see a way out and unable to express their concerns for reasons of pride, shame. But there are people to talk to and help. The St Vincent de Paul will not be shocked by any request, so if you feel you need something to get you by this Christmas, do not suffer in silence. Get in touch with them.
For those of you who are in the fortunate position of having a job and a steady income this winter, please give generously to the St Vincent de Paul collectors when they come calling over the next few weeks. The cuts of the budget this week and the diminishing income of all Irish families will mean that more than ever, the work of the society will be needed and they in turn will need whatever funds they can raise. And there but for the grace of God go us all. Their role has been made all the more difficult by the actions of the Government this week. We need to help them to help others. And we need others to help themselves by ditching their pride and making that call.