Poverty, like so many other things in this life, is relative. You do not have to be destitute to feel hard done by and as these days other people's wealth is often shoved in your face life can be dispiriting. There are people who work hard all their lives and achieve little wealth, that is hard cash. Others are born into privilege and with little effort continue to amass money.
At Christmas-time most people in the West will be enjoying a period of over indulgence. We tend to over eat, over drink, buying and receiving sometimes frivolus or pointless gifts. Don't get me wrong it can all be great fun. However, Christmas can be a stressful time especially for those who are on hard times.
It could be a recent bereavement leaving a person vulnerable and lonely or perhaps experiencing ill health. The pressure to be happy is never so great as during the so-called season of good will. Those in Newtown Sandy Hook for example, still struggling with their grief, will experience a very different Christmas.
As people's incomes dip food banks are on the increase and bartering is becoming a way of life in many European countries. In the UK the Trussell Trust which helps those in need has experienced a massive increase in people seeking help.In a country which has a bottomless War Chest and an ever increasing class divide, or should that be wealth divide, it is disgraceful. A very sorry state of affairs. The UK is still classed as one of the richest countries in the World which means that all of this is shameful.
In Greece and Spain bartering with either services or goods has seen a resurgence. Agreeing to paint a fence in exchange for a water pipe repair is good for the people involved but not for business nor economies. It does not put taxes and revenue into government coffers. Most would say though that this serves governments right.
In our home town of Hull, Yorkshire, staff who work for the Hull Hospital Trust are giving up some of their free time to open an extra bed facility. A house close to the city's main hospital has been opened as a shelter for the homeless. In a city that has a high rate of unemployment, poverty and substance abuse it is bound to be well used. Whilst it is an excellent venture you have to look at it in the light of recent government NHS cuts. With this same hospital trust having to close wards and shed staff to meet strict targets the homeless can in effect block beds in hospitals.
Still credit were it is due as without this initiative the situation for the homeless in Hull, some who are elderly, would be terrible. The shelter opened last week and will remain open until February.
So as we all sit back this Christmas Day, pat our over stuffed bellies, eat another chocolate, drink another drink and survey our mound of gifts remember to count your blessings. Do you know who made your gifts and "christmas cheer"? Was it a poor child in a foreign land working for a pittance?
As for the poor in your country you may say not I, that will never be me but consider this - they say that most people are two pay checks away from losing their home. Should disaster strike and you have little savings to fall back on, life on the streets could become a reality for you.