Give More Than Thanks

If you really want to gauge consumer confidence, don’t listen to the economists, just stroll down the greeting card aisle—you can always count on Hallmark to get it right. This Thanksgiving, cards featuring the traditional symbol of prosperity, the overflowing cornucopia, seems a little out of place as more families are faced with cutbacks, layoffs or shrinking paychecks.

Many of these are men, women and families who have never before had to ask for help. Forget cynical stereotypes about people who “choose” this path: The “new poor” are victims of the economic downturn, embarrassed and even shamed by their situations and they’re reluctant to seek aid. Behind closed doors in every neighborhood, newly jobless mothers and fathers are desperately looking for solutions to help feed their children, heat their homes, get medical help or retrain for a new job. Facing this new reality, many often struggle just to learn how to get the help they need.

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give,”

According to Theresa Regnante, Chief Executive of Long Island’s United Way, with unemployment on Long Island at 9.5% and many who have exhausted their benefits, the United Way expects a 30% jump in requests from families who will need temporary help just to heat their homes this winter.

At the same time, the not-for-profits that are providing a safety net are being challenged as never before. Just when we need it most, it seems that a “closed” sign is in the window of more and more businesses that have traditionally been supporters of Long Island charities.

Agencies that help feed families in need, like Island Harvest, the Interfaith Nutritional Network and Long Island Cares are finding more people at their doorstep. Outstanding agencies that provide assistance to our most vulnerable neighbors are facing unforeseen expenses, like United Cerebral Palsy of Suffolk, which has been hit with a new $100,000 MTA New York State payroll tax.

Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give,” and it is as much on target today as when first spoken.

Helping our neighbors when we ourselves aren’t confident about the future is difficult. But sharing what we have, whatever we can, may be the greatest gift we can give ourselves—a life of purpose and a horn of plenty of good feelings.