Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Life is becoming more of a challenge for all of us...
May 05, 2011 | 05:22 AM

as more jobs and homes are lost and the rapidly increasing cost of gasoline drastically impacts every area of our lives. The only difference between the Recession the government claims we're having and a Depression, is in spelling - the effects are the same.

The Middle Class has long borne the burden of paying the vast majority of the taxes required for running this country. By and large, the wealthy and the big corporations have loopholes that allows them huge tax breaks. BP has been allowed to write off the billions spent trying to clean up the Gulf coast (in effect the taxpayers paid for the clean-up), GE had profits of over 13 billions dollars and not only didn't pay a penny in taxes but our government gave them 13 million more. I'm dating myself, but there used to be an old expression, "Something is rotten in Denmark!" Well...something is sure as heck rotten in Washington, DC. The infighting, the name calling, and the parties pulling in opposite directions - none of this is helping to resolve any of the problems swamping our country. Politics is alive and well in DC while more and more middle class and poor Americans struggle to put food on the table.

The Middle Class is crumbling under the weight of that burdensome and unfair tax responsibility, while the gap between the rich and everyone else, widens alarmingly. Millions of people whose parents and grandparents and great grandparents were middle class Americans, now number among the poor; their lives a constant struggle.

As we know, oil companies have made record profits - Exxon made profits of 69% - unheard of. Hearing that the price of gas could reach $6 a gallon is enough to make people struggling to make a living and trying to support a family, drop to their knees in utter despair. The cost of gas impacts on every single area of our lives.

Farmers take a huge hit - imagine what it costs to till the fields and plant the grain - it's astronomical; there are farmers and ranchers who will finally surrender and try to sell their farms but nobody will buy them - there's no longer going to be any way to make a living farming on mom and pop farms – only huge corporations with their enormous production and heavy use of chemicals to make animals and crops grow faster, can continue to make a profit.

Naturally the resulting high cost of grain is felt by everyone. Every item we buy at the store is rapidly raising in price even as cereal boxes and other containers get smaller. Plane fares are going up as fast as the gas prices - travel is becoming so expensive that towns like Lake Geneva who depend on tourists will suffer greatly. More businesses will fail, more homes will be lost! It's impossible to know where the bottom is going to be. What is obvious is that life is never going to return to the way it was before the recession. Our lives are forever altered. Only the rich can continue to indulge themselves.

Yet things are going on as usual on Wall Street - big banks are raking in the profits but loaning so little that while there's a glut of homes on the market, people are struggling to find a bank that will loan them money to buy one.

When so many families in Walworth County are struggling with the challenge of providing the bare necessities for their children it may seem impossible for them to be able to afford to reach out to help others, not even to such an amazing organization as The Time is Now to Help where every penny goes to those who need it. This charity exists to help our neighbors and friends who live next door or down the street or in the next town; people who have through illness, job loss, advanced age or because of being abandoned by a spouse who heartlessly leaves their children behind to struggle, find themselves suddenly needing a hand up.

If you read this column regularly, you will have shed some tears and felt an aching concern inside for what many individuals and families in this county are suffering.

Sal has written that many families had little or no heat this winter and no electricity. He’s seen the bare cupboards and refrigerators in the homes he has visited. He could describe to you the overwhelming guilt the adult(s) in the family feel because of circumstances beyond their control preventing them from taking proper care of their children. Often elderly people, often sick and alone with no creature comforts and no family members nearby to help, silently pray for death to take them so they won't be a "burden" on anyone.

The truth is, we often don't know what is going on in the lives of our neighbors - neighborhoods aren't what they used to be long ago. Often we don't even know one another except to say hello or wave in passing. We need to sharpen our perception - to learn to read between the lines and to really look at people. In so doing, we will learn to recognize the pinched, unhappy face of a child who didn't have breakfast this morning, whose clothing isn't warm enough to protect them from bitter cold weather. We’ll notice an old woman clutching her worn coat to her chest with gloveless hands, shivering in the cold.

Yards that used to be lovingly cared for but are now weedy with overgrown grass are signs that there is trouble within. Elderly people can no longer take proper care of their yards as the years take a toll on their health. Teaching teenagers to offer to help an aging neighbor by mowing or raking the lawn for free is a valuable lesson and will leave them feeling good inside.

We need to learn to read the signs of struggle and poverty and hopefully, even though you have less than you have ever had before, you'll find that you still have more than many others and in fact, have more blessings than you ever realized before.

A piggy bank is a wonderful way to save coins which can later be taken to the bank and turned into paper money, which can then be contributed to The Time is Now to Help. Children will learn valuable lessons if encouraged to share, to give a small portion of their allowance or to find loose change around the house and contribute to the coins in the bank, knowing they're making a positive difference in the lives of others. The bank can simply be a jar with a lid on it. These vitally important lessons will remain with them the rest of their lives.

Sal and his volunteers can't continue to perform the tremendous services they provide to our community unless those of us who have more share a little of what we have on a regular basis. Yes, our own families must come first - their basic needs must be met.

Perhaps it's simply a matter of empathy, of walking in the shoes of someone else. Imagine the anguish of sending one's children to school every day without warm enough clothing or food in their stomachs. Bills pile up, medical problems arise, food costs escalate and something as basic as having the children’s' teeth cleaned is financially out of reach. Imagine not having hope any more, of experiencing utter despair. We can all help if we’re willing to share what we have, if we pay attention to what's going on with our neighbors.

Sal brings us heartrending stories of how this disastrous economy has impacted on countless families. He lies awake nights praying for enough money to help everyone who needs it; he's constantly on the phone trying to find a usable car to replace one that is no longer drivable for someone who must have a car to work. He goes into those homes where residents are wearing layers of clothing to keep warm, sees their pinched, tear stained faces, their empty cupboards. Every day he sees the reality of what is taking place in Walworth County and he does something about it.

He needs our help - whether contributions for individuals or families are big or small, the dollars will add up. Please make filling a piggy bank or sending a check to The Time is Now a family project and at the same time show your children, by example, that it's important to reach out and help others who have fallen on bad times. Please…do what you can to help Sal continue to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

One of my favorite songs that we sang in high school was “No Man Is An Island” – the lyrics are more poignant now than ever before.

No man is an island,
No man stands alone,
Each man's joy is joy to me,
Each man's grief is my own.

We need one another,
So I will defend,
Each man as my brother,
Each man as my friend.

I saw the people gather,
I heard the music start,
The song that they were singing,
Is ringing in my heart.

No man is an island,
Way out in the blue,
We all look to the one above,
For our strength to renew.

When I help my brother,
Then I know that I,
Plant the seed of friendship,
That will never die.

Pamela deRoy
Lake Geneva, WI