By Gail Murray, LICSW
During the holidays there is a sad reality for many people who, for the most part, remain invisible to many of us. They are the less fortunate among us who have fallen on hard times or live with difficult situations for much of their lives. With the significant stress of managing our own lives in these hard times, it is easy for us to overlook those who truly need our help, especially during the winter months when needing to find warmth can be a matter of life or death.
The holidays can be the very best of times as children lie tucked in their beds and moms and dads look for the perfect bow for the perfect present. Co-workers gather to have social time away from the mundane day to day tasks of their jobs and most of us fly around shopping, cooking, cleaning, decorating and trying, once again, to create the “Perfect Holiday”. It’s no wonder that we are so exhausted by the first of the New Year, that we are glad to say goodbye to the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
For many, however this is not the case as the holidays can often be the most difficult of times. As a social worker with the Community Health Team (CHT) at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, I meet with people every day who are just trying to locate food to eat, a safe place to lay their head at night and a little human companionship. The Community Health Team has the resources to help people deal with a wide range of issues; from management of medications, diabetes management and education, finding supportive services, nutrition education, weight management and smoking cessation, to name a few.
As a member of the Community Health Team, I work with people referred by the NCQA (National Committee for Quality Assurance) certified physician practices that the CHT serves. In some cases individuals and families cannot afford medications or cannot afford the fuel to keep warm or the money to pay the electric bill. I met with a young woman recently who quietly wept as she told me she cannot find a warm place to stay during the day on Sundays until the shelter opens in the evening, as most businesses are closed. Hearing her speak made me wonder who I might see in a store, not there to make a purchase, but to find a place to stay warm.
I don’t have to tell anyone that these are difficult times for all of us. It seems as though, over the last few years, my electric bill has doubled, food bills are out of sight, fuel oil has skyrocketed in price and ever increasing property taxes are choking all of us. In a nutshell, it is getting harder and harder for most of us to keep up with the increasing costs of living.
Imagine how much harder it is for those who have so little to begin with. Many services have been cut back and there is much less to go around. Brattleboro, Windham County and the entire State of Vermont do much to help. There are true heroes in our communities who run soup kitchens, deliver meals on wheels, volunteer at the hospital, give rides to people who have medical appointments and much, much more.
I truly believe that many small efforts from many single individuals will, like rays from the sun, provide warmth and positive changes in the lives of many others. Open your hearts this holiday season and give a small gift of yourself. The amazing part is that you will also receive a stupendous gift by giving to others; the gift of well-being and inner peace for having reached out and given a gift to one who is truly in need.
If you would like to reach out and make the world a better place, not just over the holidays but year round, here are some ideas for how you can make a difference.
Make a donation to: Project Feed the Thousands, The Windham County Heat Fund, Morningside Shelter, The Brattleboro Area Drop-in Center or volunteer at the Brattleboro Winter Overflow Shelter. Contacting the United Way can tell you about many other organizations in the community that need your help.
Gail Murray LICSW is a Social Worker with the Vermont Blueprint for Health Community Outreach Team at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. She can be reached at (802)257-3152