Editorial: Find yourself a blessing

  • Volunteers Karen Woodward,of Lebanon, N.H., left, and Sharon Otto, of Lebanon, pack pumpkin pie into Meals on Wheels bags at the Upper Valley Senior Center in Lebanon, on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. Starting in December the Grafton County Senior Citizens Council which oversees the meals will now longer be serving dessert. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Published: 12/7/2019 10:10:15 PM

Last Sunday in this space we applauded the admirable efforts, as described by staff writer Anna Merriman, that Hartford is making to support and aid a burgeoning population of homeless people living in town, while noting the need for businesses and other people of good will to lend a hand.

Elsewhere in the same edition:

■ Calendar editor Liz Sauchelli reported that the Grafton County Senior Citizens Council has taken dessert off the menu for recipients of Meals on Wheels and those who attend congregate meals in order to save money. The state reimburses at the rate of $6 a meal, while the actual cost is $9. And demand is growing. In all, the council served almost 21,000 meals that were not covered by reimbursements during the fiscal year that ended June 30, leaving a deficit of almost $125,000.

■ Columnist Jim Kenyon chronicled the ongoing efforts of a 25-year-old nonprofit group, Barbara’s Red Stocking, to help struggling families in West Fairlee, Fairlee, Vershire, Orford and Piermont by providing a week’s worth of groceries during the holiday season. When the effort began in 1994, a couple of dozen families received assistance. This year more than 80 are in need. “Rural poverty is often hidden,” Fairlee Town Clerk Georgette Wolf-Ludwig told Kenyon. “There’s so much prosperity in our area that you don’t see it until you go out onto the back roads.”

■ VtDigger reported on a new study by a researcher at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, who concluded that Vermont ranks highest in the nation in the rate of economic insecurity for older couples and third for older singles. Although relatively few seniors in Vermont have incomes below the poverty line, the report said, the high cost of health care and housing means that even those with more income struggle to make ends meet. “The costs are definitely driving a lot of what you see in Vermont,” said Jan Mutchler, author of the study. “The people in Vermont probably have more retirement income on average than (those in) Mississippi or Alabama. But because their cost of living is so high, it just doesn’t go as far.”

■ On Monday, the Valley News carried a VtDigger story reporting that Vermont shelters are jammed with the homeless, despite a reported 30% drop in their numbers over the past five years. Shelter managers are at a loss to explain this seeming paradox, but they confirm that the number of available beds in many areas is insufficient to accommodate all those who need them. One cited what she called a systemic problem: Lack of affordable housing and jobs that don’t pay a liveable wage are prominent among the many factors that contribute to homelessness.

Collectively these stories paint a picture of poverty amid plenty, of want amid wealth, of fragile lives in fat city. In other words, not much is different today from almost two decades ago when Kenyon’s celebrated eight-part series The Other Side of the Valley appeared in this newspaper. Except, we suspect, that by most measures the rich have become much richer and widespread prosperity masks the problem to an even greater extent.

Of course, there is much government at all levels could and should do to address these issues, but that is not the call we issue today. The holidays are at hand, and the need in our communities is great. Examine your conscience, and open your hearts to those whose fortunes are clouded. As the old holiday carol has it, you may be sure that,

“Wealth or rank possessing,

Ye who now will bless the poor,

Shall yourselves find blessing.”




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