The holidays are a time of joy for many. They are when families celebrate being together with loved ones, workplaces honor the accomplishments of employees, and individuals reflect on their personal success. However, this scenario does not apply to everyone.
Slowly, over the last fifteen or so years, there has been a dramatic annual increase in the number of individuals and families living in poverty. Usually, the remedy during this season is to give kindly and generously to those less fortunate. However, the number of those able to give is starting to run thin, and even if those with the largest sums of wealth gave more of it, charity alone will not resolve this epidemic of poverty.
There are many systemic reasons why income and wealth inequality is on the rise. Programs that better an individuals social autonomy, such as education and health treatment programs are getting scaled back across the board. Infrastructural investments in transportation and quality housing developments are at an extreme shortage. The system of compensation for those who work and those who take care of their families is rigged against them. As poverty grows, inequality rises. And as a higher proportion of individuals have less of an impact on their economy, the prospects for there being enough wealth to satisfy the needs of our nations citizens in the future are staggering. Eventually, everyone, even the rich, will be affected by growing economic inequality.
In order to address this growing national problem, everyone must first treat poverty as a collective issue. Attitudes must change to “if this problem is not addressed soon, it will affect me negatively.” We then must agree that selectively giving money to various necessary causes may help in the short run, but in the long run, we as a nation need to address larger scale issues of personal autonomy and finance, such as investing in education, health services, and vocational training, and to work on giving more individuals a long-term financial advantage.
Meanwhile, we must still continue to donate. Charity is a community sacrament: it signifies the capacity of an individual to treat all others with respect and dignity.