Thursday, November 22, 2012

Dear Santa .... I Just Want Ends To Meet

Our family does, in fact, know that there is no Santa.   We have never promoted Santa, but we don't shun those that do either - as many in our family celebrate with Santa.

My kids know that the economy is quite bad and people are struggling everywhere - many struggle as much as we do and many far more than we do.

They also know that the best gift you can give is to love and care for each other and the joy of celebrating Jesus coming to earth as a man to die on the cross to pay for our sins.

The thing is ... for a family like ours, living below the poverty line, Christmas and birthdays and other celebrations can be overwhelming and somewhat depressing.  The rest of the time, we make do and life just keeps going - wanting more often doesn't even cross our minds.  We manage to make do and stretch meals and such and be happy about it ... but when faced with "extra" anything - we just don't have it ... like asking a cat to fly.   On the other hand, because others have a level of "living" that is so far above ours ... they make huge assumptions that may or may not be true.    For those that feel entitled or are newly poor  or always out seeing what other have .... they may want or expect more - but for those of us living by faith and trusting God for our food and provisions, we've been doing this for more years than we care to count - sometimes for generations, and we don't get out much ... what we expect and want can be so VERY different than what the status quo thinks we should want.

What we have or don't have - has nothing to do with how happy we are.   I get "down" at Christmas not because of what I don't have or cannot afford, not nearly as much as, I WANT to give to others and have not figured out how to do so in a manner than is helpful to others.

So what would be a practical gift to a family that is struggling to stay afloat and off tax dollars?  (While I'm going to use my family experience for ideas here ...  this will be true of many families here in the USA this year - maybe you know others in the same boat we are in?)

Food - You can ask what they like, or give a gift card, or take them shopping and let them fill a cart with what they need and want.   What may sound like great food to you - may not appeal to another family.  Our family is heavy on the allergies - we are 80% gluten and 90% dairy free ... not all of us can do peanuts.   People's eyes tend to glaze over when they ask if they can bring us a meal and find out the list of allergies - although I don't consider us hard to cook for at all.   Still, our pantry is quite small - 3 of our cupboards, so surprising us with a large quantity of food, especially if it can spoil (and I would imagine that most others would feel the same) might not be a good idea.  Food is often an area that is deeply slashed in a budget - even Food Stamps may not be much help, especially if a family is large and/or homeschools, or like us, does not have an actual rent payment.

Gas/ Car/ Insurance - Filling a tank with gas, or a gas card, in this economy is a HUGE help.   In fact, any help in keeping the family or work car going would be welcome.  Maybe new tires or an oil change.  Or help with the car insurance.  Most poor have the minimum amount of insurance with high deductibles - helping them get a little better coverage could be a huge help.   Car usage is another area that families will trim, but it is also one of the easiest areas to go into debt.

Home Repairs or Weather Proofing - houses tend to have problems, and while we KNOW that fixing a problem will save us money, getting the money to fix the problem can be a big problem, and often, we don't really know where to start to fix it ourselves.  And if you offer to fix something - follow through.   Drafty homes are hard to heat or cool, and even harder to keep swept and dusted.

Clothes - This may or may not be helpful.  People tend to give a lot of second hand clothing, and this is one area where there may not be a need - poor often have more clothing than the middle class.  We've had no real problem keeping ourselves clothed - though styles and colors can be less than ideal.   For us in particular, shoes are often where we need help, and in clothing our "odd boy".   There are plenty of girls handing around clothes in our family - but very few boys.  So check with a family before you just drop off clothes.  And make sure they are clean and folded.  There is nothing worse than sorting somebody else's dirty laundry that has been sitting for weeks or months.

Bug Spray or Traps - Because we tend to live in older houses, we tend to get bugs.   An exterminator is not on our list of affordable items.   Still, the "good stuff" is pricey.  You might want to ask first, as some people may be offended that you thought they had bugs!  Even if they do.   You might could offer the "extras" from spraying your own home.

Garden or Landscaping - Tools to take care of the property, clippers, rakes, shovels, water hoses.   Seeds, plants, and such.  Ask them what they would like to do in the yard.  Chances are "weeds" will not be the answer.   If you don't have a working lawn mower - you can't keep the weeds cut.   Then pitch in and help make it a reality.  Sometimes knowing what to do or the tools to do a job are all that is holding someone back.   Money for yard work is often non-existent in a low income budget.

Family "toy" - Larger purchases are  usually skipped unless it becomes critical.   Often a second hand replacement would be very welcome.  Couches, chairs, dressers, TV, bedding, ... or even real toys ... swing set or bikes.   Ask them, what is one thing you wish you could buy or replace.  The answer is likely to be surprising.  And let them think about it.    Usually, there is a huge list of things ... my list would include a new Queen mattress, recover the couch, better TV, deck or better steps, greenhouse, Tablet computer ...  all things we have deemed that we can "live without" and rarely give a second thought, but to choose ONLY one item at a spur the moment ... that would be a challenge!

Date Night - I don't get out much, and even though it is always with the Ref, it is always rushed.  To be able to just relax together without "a care in the world" ....  movie or a show, a meal, an overnight cabin (plus gas money to get there) ....  or even a marriage seminar or parenting seminar.  Just relaxed time together.   Financial stress can be a HUGE stress in a marriage.

School Money / Supplies - whether homeschooling or public schooling - there are expenses involved in education.   For us, it is huge amazing when someone says, "Can I buy one thing on your curriculum list?"  or  they give or let us borrow from their own supplies.

One on One Time with a child - Even in our home, where we are home alone with the kids 24/7.  Our kids don't get out much.  Taking them shopping for new shoes, shirts to match that skirt that they wear to church all the time, craft supplies ... or to a movie, museum, Zoo, or art show, .... or anything else .... it helps the stress level of the child, and it is something exciting to talk about later.   Even if the parents try to hide the budget and costs from the children, they will pick up on the stress and the constant "no".

Bills - There are always so many.  Offering to pay the next water bill, or electric bill, or the rent.  Or even a credit card.   Ask for a bill that "would NOT get paid this month".

Home Upgrade - help paint a room, re-tile a floor, a new fixture in the bathroom.  It can give a whole new outlook on their home and put a smile on their face.   If you are upgrading your own home - especially if the items you are removing are still in really good shape - consider blessing someone else with that extra half can of paint, or the faucets that just didn't go with your new decor in the bathroom, or the carpet you just replaced in your home (assuming it is still in pretty good shape and doesn't smell.)     You might be surprised what can be given away instead of thrown away.   Many won't know how to fix items or have funds to work on a project, so be willing to install or help supply paint brushes or other materials.  

Prayers and a listening ear can also help.  Listen to their needs, pray for them, and pray WITH them.

Are there other ways you could suggest help to those in need?

another similar article   ....    Do  you know of others?

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