Choices for the New Year

This is the time of year when we try to wipe the slate clean and begin again. It can be very emotional to look back at the year and review what you experienced. Since I’m starting over again, I’m going to talk about a sensitive topic. Please forgive me if I do offend you, but I think it’s worth the risk.

When I attended and taught graduate school in social work many moons ago, probably the most frequent theme was who is deserving of help and who is not. The concept of blaming the victim is often pervasive. We don’t understand how if we’re making it, why isn’t someone else? It must be because of an individual’s poor decision making or because something is wrong with him or her. Since something may be wrong with them, do they deserve the same as we do?

This kind of attitude does have a potential impact on JFS clients. JFS is so grateful to receive many amazing donations of food, toiletries and fresh produce. At times, we receive boxes that have been half used and other food products with labels that show an expiration date from several years ago. What is the message when a can is extremely dented? While vintage clothing may be in style, the clothing is only appealing if it has no holes or stains. Why would a person in need want something that the donor would otherwise throw out?

The assumption, whether conscious or unconscious, is that a person in need will accept anything because they are so desperate. Unfortunately, I have observed people who are extremely needy and because of how they have experienced life, they do feel like they don’t deserve something better and they feel they should accept whatever is out there. By allowing this cycle to continue, we do not treat those in need with dignity or respect. We do not provide individuals with hope when we give them our leftovers that should be discarded.

The beginning of a new year is a time of introspection. I find this process to be painful and healing at the same time. I believe we live in a caring community where people really want to help. In order to help, we must try to walk in someone’s shoes even if they are extremely uncomfortable. I wish you a l’shanah tovah.

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