In These Austere Times, A Message for Both the ‘Haves’ and ‘Have Nots’

We can get through... if we really are all in this together

News January 17, 2023

17 January 2023 | St Albans, UK [David Neal]

The ‘Cost of Living Crisis’ has arrived – it is real, it is painful, and affects almost everyone in Europe. The reality of high energy prices is a raw utility knock affecting every home and business. But the knock-on effect is the cost of goods and services, because to ‘make things’ energy of one sort or another is required, leading to increased costs in goods and services. As a consequence, many European nations have experienced levels of inflation not seen in forty years.

But we can get through it if we really are all in it together. To support each other and anyone in need, is a core value of the Christian community because of Christ’s example. ‘Encourage one another’ (Romans 15:1) is just one of one hundred verses in the New Testament with the same message – help and support in both word and deed.

A message for ‘the haves’

During the 1980’s the ‘Royal National Institution for the Blind’ ran a campaign with the motif, “What blind people need is more tea and less sympathy”. Our compassion works best when we act. Those who ‘have’, are incredibly positioned to bring relief, hope, and cheer, to those currently struggling. In what ways can we provide consistent ongoing help because this crisis will not end in three months or even three years.

  1. A monthly direct debit to support a food bank or soup kitchen
  2. A monthly direct debit to support a family (anonymously where possible)
  3. Order a weekly supermarket / grocery delivery to a home in need.
  4. For those on ‘pay as you go’ utility arrangements, purchase a card each month for a struggling family (particularly helpful for January to May).

A message for ‘the struggling’

The first problem to overcome is ‘pride’.

The cartoonist Ben Jennings in the 24 November Guardian illustrates in an incredibly sobering way our current national reality. A father and son are sat at an empty table, in an empty kitchen. The son has a plate of food, but the father does not. The son says, “Dad – when will I be grow up enough to not need dinner any more like you.” ¹

We are not failures, but victims – of national and international economic circumstances beyond our personal control. A visit to a food bank is not a badge of failure, but a necessary godly activity to provide and support family in these desperate times.

Ana and Esther help distribute food with ADRA in the Netherlands
The economic winter we currently face extends beyond national boundaries. ADRA Netherlands volunteers demonstrate the spirit of ‘we’re all in this together’.

There were times in my life while raising a young family, when I would go to the cash machine to withdraw funds a week before payday, only to read that painful message ‘insufficient funds’. Pride kept me from sharing with anybody – and used the credit card to solve the problem. It did not – but made matters worse.

If struggling right now – recognise reality, bin the pride, and seek help. If in debt, immediately contact creditors to manage repayments. For sure, credit scores are affected, aspiration goes on hold, but the medium to long-term is repairable. Seek professional help from a free debt counselling service who will also help create a realistic budget. But also confide in one trusted close friend or family who can walk this journey with you. I remember doing this, and our friends shared tremendous helpful advice and practical support.

But it is possible that during this crisis, as UK consumer expert Martin Lewis implores – “I have run out of solutions” – and that is scary!² And for this reason, we must also dig deep into our spiritual bank.   There is a song I learnt as a child, “If I can help somebody, then my living will not be in vain”. God help me and each of us to live that value, particularly in these most challenging of times.

If I can help somebody as I pass along
If I can cheer somebody with a word or song
If I can show somebody he is travelling wrong
Then my living shall not be in vain

Then my living shall not be in vain
My living shall not be in vain
If I can help somebody as I pass along
Then my living shall not be in vain

If I can do my duty as a Christian ought
If I can bring back beauty to a world up wrought
If I can spread God′s message as the master taught
Then my living shall not be in vain³

¹Ben Jennings on British parents skipping meals – cartoon, The Guardian, 25/11/2022
²Money Saving Expert. For consumer advice, in the context of UK consumer matters, this site is second to none.
³Author: Alma Bazel Androzzo

The original version of this article was published in the Winter edition of the South England Conference Communicator Magazine, which Sorin Petrof the editor writes, “is dedicated to all who have been challenged to learn the new language of survival. Our dedicated volunteer writers have each prepared articles with differing topics and perspectives on this theme…”

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